Spiritual but not religious – Resident of Portugal
Our monthly article seeks to offer open-minded, clarifying, and meaningful answers to readers’ questions about spirituality. Send your questions to the Resident.
Q: What are the religious festivals associated with Midsummer’s Day?
I have often commented on the association between celestial events and religious or spiritual observances. The summer solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere on or around June 21, marking the day / time when the earth’s north pole is most closely oriented towards the sun.
Although this is the start of astronomical summer, it is often referred to as a “midsummer day” because we have already enjoyed a few weeks of (mostly!) Warm and clear weather. Spring planting is over, and now we depend on rain and sun to do their job. Our own bodies will be aware of the heat, and a certain weariness may overtake us. The alternation of sun and cool water helps us to restore and refresh ourselves in this season.
In the Christian calendar, we are well into “ordinary time” – the period between Pentecost or Trinity Sunday, depending on how you count – and the Sundays approaching Advent later in the fall. Christian observances at this time are occasional and sporadic, mostly associated with specific saints. Saint Anthony, Saint John (the Baptist) and Saint Peter are especially celebrated here in Portugal from mid-June to the end of June.
The summer solstice celebrations in northern Europe, for example Jāņi in Latvia or Midsommar in Sweden, most likely precede Christian holidays by several centuries, although some have been co-opted into the Christian cycle. In addition, contemporary pagans have strived to reclaim the ancient traditions of gathering herbs, lighting fires, food, ritual and dance, associated with health and fertility and the natural balance that , at this time, favors light over dark.
A healthy spiritual practice always helps us to be aware of the intermediate place that we occupy, between the past seasons and the seasons to come; of the earth below us and the heavens above.
Here in the Algarve we have the opportunity to step foot in the sand by the sea at sunset, listen to the wind, birds and waves, wait for the temperature to drop and the stars to appear above us. Better yet if you have a companion or companions to do this with. Now, when we all need healing and recovery from our communities the most, it is a time to celebrate the simple fact that we are alive. Summer blessings everyone!
Reverend Reid Hamilton