4th July = Julian Midsummer!

Hey there, my friends in the US: Happy 4th July!

Did you know that that this celebration corresponds with the 'Julian calendar' celebration of the Summer Solstice? The Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar) is 12 days 'behind' the current 'Gregorian' calendar, and is still used for dating by some of the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches…

The summer solstice was traditionally associated with the 'midsummer bonfire' festivities common across Europe until the 20thC, and would have been celebrated by American settlers on old midsummer day (Julian midsummer) before the 4th of July (signing of the Declaration of Independence) became transplanted onto it for the purpose of a national celebration. The Gregorian calendar was instituted in the Protestant world quite late after its adoption by Pope Gregory of the Roman Catholic church in 1582. Britain adopted it in its Imperial provinces in 1752 – including the US, Ireland and Scotland. There was a degree of controversy about this as ordinary people felt that their customary observations of days for popular nature festivities (with particularly pagan roots) were being interfered with by the state and the church who were seen as having no right to interfere with the 'natural order'. The disparity between the Julian and Gregorian calendars has been growing since it was instituted, from 10 days to the current 13 – this explains why similar 'national day' Solstice celebrations fall on different days, for instance – the Isle of Man's Tynwald celebration:

'Tynwald Day' is typically held on the 5th, 6th or 7th of July (depending on how the weekwnd falls). Again, this is a 'Julian' Solstice celebration! The people of this little nation still gather annually around a hill and hear their laws proclaimed by the Island's 'Deemsters' – traditional Gaelic Brehon judges, almost certainly part of a tradition in continuity with Druidism and Norse heathenism (which was related). Attendees traditionally wear a sprig of the plant Artemisia Vulgaris, and watch the Deemsters walk along a processional causeway to ascend a low hill from which the laws are proclaimed. The causeway is strewn with green rushes – said to originally to have been the tax payable at this annual event to the islander's pagan god, Manannan – still believed in by ordinary Manx people as 'their' god – even though the celebration has had a Christian church service tacked onto it!

Good to see that America still celebrates the old pagan celebrations!


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