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New Harmony: Wishing you a merry Midsummer Christmas

Published: Saturday, June 22 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Women take part in a procession during Saint John the Baptist celebrations in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, Friday, June 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Rodrigo Abd, ASSOCIATED PRESS

So, have you broken up all your old furniture and gathered your sticks to fuel the bonfires of St. John’s Day?

I didn’t think so.

Once viewed as the Midsummer Christmas, St. John’s Day (June 24) has fallen on hard times. Many who think about it at all think the day is for St. John the Apostle.

It’s not.

It’s a day to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist — exactly six months before the birth of Christ.

You could say St. John’s Day is a “forerunner” to Christmas Day.

Back in 500 A.D., the day was one of the hottest Christian festivals on the calendar (literally and figuratively). Fires burned bright on the hills to celebrate heaven’s light and long days. At night, children would leap over blazing fires.

As with Halloween, however, the sacred nature of the day soon got scrambled together with the superstitions of other midsummer festivals. Demons and devils became a part of the tradition. So did dastardly deeds.

It was said that treasures would seep out of the ground and lay on the ground on St. John’s Day, just waiting for folks to find them.

People would cut branches for water witching on St. John’s Day and kids would even go door to door asking for treats.

Every holy moment, apparently, has a dark, double face to match it.

In Hispanic countries — especially in San Juan, Puerto Rico — families still build fires and watch as their children leap them (child endangerment laws are a little less stringent, I guess.) Spain, Latin America, Quebec, San Jose, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz., still throw a St. John’s party.

But the rest of Christendom has let the day lapse into disuse.

The notion of a summer Christmas has been replaced with ideas of fun in the summer sun.

Perhaps we’ve come to take John the Baptist too seriously when he said he wasn’t worthy to tie the shoes of Jesus. We don't think he's worth the effort.

Maybe we should take Jesus more seriously. He said John the Baptist was at the top of the list of prophets.

At any rate, it is interesting to note that many sources that supply information about the day mention that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a special place for John, since he was a key figure in the Restoration.

Many other people of faith still search the relics of early Christianity looking for the man’s severed head.

There’s a lesson in that, I suppose — something along the lines of “lose your head and you shall find it.”

But I’m not going to push it.

I’m sticking with dreaming of a Midsummer Night's Christmas.

Email: jerjohn@desnews.com

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