The summer solstice is the first day of astronomical summer and the longest day of the year for people in the Northern Hemisphere. In ancient times, solstices and equinoxes were important in helping people to maintain calendars and grow crops. The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times and over the centuries has been marked by festivals and celebrations.
* In Wales prehistoric sites such as at Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey, the open burial chamber dated to around 2000BC, is so perfectly aligned that for only 20 minutes each year, a beam of sunlight aligns exactly with the opening to the chamber.
* Mistletoe was important to the Celtic Druids as it was believed to cure all ills. On Midsummer Eve, it is reported that they would cut it with a golden scythe and catch it in a cloth before it touched the ground.
* With the coming of Christianity, people were encouraged to give up their old traditions, by their incorporation into new Christian practices. For example, the summer solstice became known as the feast of St. John, the Baptist.
* In Wales it is called Gŵyl Ifan Ganol Haf (St John’s of Midsummer) . Great agricultural fairs, which included dancing, merriment and the lighting of bonfires, were held at this time. Welsh tradition says that gathering Saint John’s Wort on the night before the summer solstice would bring good luck and imbue it with extra healing powers.
* A sprig of mistletoe gathered on Midsummer Eve and placed under the pillow was said to bring prophetic dreams and branches from birch trees were used to decorate maypoles town squares.
* With the advent of non-conformist beliefs on the Welsh socio-political culture, this (among so many other similar festivals) suffered greatly, and its observance finally died out by the end of the 19th century.