Summer and Celebration

June 21 is the first day of summer because it is the day of the summer solstice.

Okay, just a quick review of your high school astronomy.  In summer and winter we have solstices — the summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  In the autumn and spring we have equinoxes, when the day and night are the same length.  So once this summer solstice passes, the days, which have been gradually lengthening since the spring equinox, will begin to shorten until the autumn equinox, after which the days will continue to become shorter and shorter and the nights longer, until the winter solstice, after which the days will begin to lengthen once again.

This is all very neat stuff.  We live in a way cool universe with all kinds of interesting things to observe and learn about.

So then, should we celebrate the summer solstice?

Let’s put it another way:  Is there anything wrong with a Catholic celebrating the summer solstice, or the winter solstice, or the equinoxes of spring and fall?  What about the new moon, or the full moon?  Would it be okay to celebrate those, to have a new moon party, for example?

The answer might surprise you.

You can celebrate anything.  Celebrate the leaves falling off the oak tree in your backyard, or the first crocus of spring, or the first snow fall of winter.  Celebrate sunspots or rainbows or the running of the salmon or the flowing of the sap.  Celebrate the swallows returning to Capistrano or the Monarchs flying to Mexico.  You are free and welcome to celebrate whatever you want.

Knock yourself out.  Throw a party, have a cookout, or stay out dancing all night — go ahead — have a great time.  Just don’t get confused — because no matter how much you celebrate any of these natural events, they won’t become supernatural.  They won’t become sacred.

Not objectively.  Objectively sacred means that something has been set apart for the worship of God; it has been hallowed.

This is why, when the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, God took the feasts of new moons and planting and harvesting and first fruits — all the things that every agrarian people on earth celebrated — and elevated them so that they became infused with sacred meaning.  They pointed beyond the natural order to the saving acts of God.

Modern day “pagans” like to boast that they are restoring the sense of sacred to these natural markers of time.  Wrong.  By celebrating them as merely the astronomical events they are, they remove their sacred meaning.  They remove the very thing that makes these natural phenomena point beyond themselves.  But celebrate them if you want to.

Or you could just celebrate the feasts of the Catholic Church — truly sacred events that commemorate the saving acts of God in the history of the Church and in the lives of the saints. I’d wager that would keep you busy enough.

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  • janedoe

    Thank you, Mary.

  • jmtfh

    Thanks, Mary!

    I love this day! I have never liked winter, though I have always lived in the “Hinterlands of the North”… WI, ND, MN… The farthest south I have ever lived was maybe OH or IA, though my mother hailed from New Orleans!

    Today, being the longest day of the year is one of my favorite days–though for others like me who are susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder (not enough sun exposure in the winter months–thus dangerously low levels of vitamins D & K) tomorrow we begin our grieving process as the days will now get shorter.

    I also like the winter solstice because, even though many long winter nights still remain, the days then start getting longer. So I too, have advocated celebrations on this day for many years! I was up this morning before 5:00 a.m. despite not getting to bed till 1:00 a.m. I watched the sun rise (at 5:26 a.m. CST here) and greeted the moment of the summer solstice here (6:29 a.m. CST)


    IDEAS for CELEBRATING THE FIRST DAY OF SUMMER: Have a fire in your back yard tonight and make s’mores, or snuggle your kids on the patio chairs and sing campfire songs, or teach them how to play Red Light Green Light or some other game you played late into the summer nights when you were a kid! Even an impromptu backyard picnic would be easy–but celebrate this day because our summers here on this earth are limited and one day soon we will all stand in front of the Son of All Suns, praising His name and beholding His Glory and Sonlight for ourselves!

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  • Christi Derr

    I have read in the “old Church calendar” there were three partial fast days before each season that were suggested to the faithful as a way to sanctify that season. Not a bad idea!

  • LarryW2LJ

    Mary wrote:

    “Celebrate sunspots …..”

    As an Amateur Radio operator, that’s exactly what we “Hams” do! The more sunspots, the easier it is to talk ’round the world on our radios!

    Sorry – couldn’t resist.

  • goral

    I celebrated with a breakfast date with my daughter, then two hamburgers and two beers. Now that I wrote about I’ll try to make it a tradition.