11th June – The Queen’s official birthday
The monarch’s official birthday has not been celebrated on their actual birthday, since Edward VII (whose birthday was on 9th November) moved the official birthday celebration to June, in the hope that the outdoor parade would have better weather.
12th June – Whit Sunday
This is named after the white garments worn by those baptised and confirmed on this day. It is also the Jewish Feast of Pentecost when Jews celebrate the giving of the Ten Commandments – “Pente” means “fifty”, as Pentecost is fifty days or the seventh Sunday after Easter.
15th June – Total Lunar Eclipse
The full moon will be eclipsed from the time it rises (around 9.30 p.m.) for about three and a half hours. It is a spectacular sight, as the moon will be red or dark orange in colour – very eerie!
19th June – Father’s Day
Unlike Mother’s day, Father’s Day is a relatively recent invention, originating in the United States not long before the First World War. It is intended to celebrate fatherhood and paternal bonds, complementing the Mother’s Day celebration in a way that has become more and more appropriate as fathers have got more “hands-on” in child rearing.
21st June – The Summer Solstice
The Summer Solstice is the longest day, and nowadays is also defined as the first day of summer – which is odd, as it is traditionally known as midsummer – see Midsummer Day below. In astronomical terms, this is the day the earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun. In practical terms, it means that from today onwards, the days start to get shorter again.
For those who still haven’t had enough of all things royal, it is also Prince William’s birthday.
24th June – Midsummer Day
This is the day the Romans celebrated the summer solstice, and solstice celebrations are held between the astronomical solstice and today, which in England was a traditional Quarter Day. Cornish tin miners always had a holiday. On Dartmoor there was a tradition of erecting platforms in trees and dancing on them, perhaps a remnant of ancient tree worship.
This has always been a day of outdoor celebration. In past times, the exteriors of houses were decorated with greenery, fires were lit, and men jumped through the flames for good luck, a vestige of purification rites which often involved fire. The ashes of the midsummer fire were used to tell fortunes and foretell the future. Everyone stayed up beyond midnight.
15th July – St Swithin’s Day
By tradition, whatever the weather on this day, so it will remain for forty days. St Swithin was a 9th Century Bishop of Winchester. He died in 862, and his remains were moved on this day in 971 to a shrine in Winchester Cathedral. A torrential thunderstorm broke, and the rain lasted for forty days. It was said that he was weeping at the moving of his bones, and so began the legend.
June 2011 (Summer issue)