Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
- Henry David Thoreau - Journal (Aug. 23, 1853)
Every quarter year or so I am assailed by the same seasonal misconception. It’s one of those things that seems so obvious to me that I’m again and again shocked that nobody else seems to have noticed. Your seasons are all off by 45 days.
Today people are celebrating the Summer Solstice and across the internet I’m hearing the same thing. Folks are wishing each other a happy “first day of summer”. But what’s this? It’s not the first day of summer, you say? That’s right, we are 45 days into summer already.
See, I think the problem is that people only ever learned the names of the seasonal midpoints growing up. The equinoxes and the solstices are the days which mark out halfway progression through each season. The summer solstice was, in fact, called “midsummer” for most of its existence. Remember that little play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”?
So with people only knowing four days, they just lazily made those the “first” days of each season. That’s my theory at least. Unfortunately, we already have days for that! The first day of summer was called Beltane, or May Day. The first day of winter was called Samhain (pronounced Soh-win). The first day of Spring: Imbolc. The first day of Autumn: “Lammas, or Lughnasadh (pronounced Lunasa). We have holidays for” all of these events!
The thing that really frustrates me is how these days are tossed on the pile as pagan holidays. They might have names that stretch back to some of that, sure, but only because they are first and foremost Earth holidays. If we celebrate the solstice it is no different than celebrating Imbolc. In fact, one of the last places you can find these days really celebrated outside of your local teen-age, Wiccan slumber party is in the Catholic Church calendar! The names may be different, but the celebrations are all there. Imbolc is Candlemas. Samhain is All Saints’ Eve. See?
Here’s the list, for quick reference: