Today, author Susana Ellis has dropped in to tell us about her latest release. Susana is a former teacher who is now living her dream of writing full time.
The summer solstice, or Midsummer’s Day, is the longest day (the most daylight) of the year. The Midsummer Festival began as a pagan event, with bonfires on Midsummer’s Eve (June 23) to protect against evil spirits and magical beings who allegedly come alive during the night. Gold plants (as gold was the color associated with the day, due to the strength of the sun’s rays) were believed to have special healing powers if picked at that time. As Christianity gained in popularity, the powers-that-be deftly turned it into a Christian holiday, celebrating the birth of St. John the Baptist, who was born six months before Christ.
During the Reformation, the Midsummer’s Day Festival was discredited by many religious authorities due to its pagan beginnings and the lechery and gluttony associated with it. Nevertheless, it still persisted in Regency England on a limited basis as a quasi-religious holiday during the summer months. Vicars intent on following strict Anglican doctrines refused to endorse such celebrations; others took advantage of the day to reinforce the importance of John the Baptist and the Gospel of Christ.
In addition to the performance of plays about John the Baptist, there was abundant food, games, and even maypoles, in certain areas. Special flowers, such as roses, rue, trefoil, and Vervain, placed under a pillow, were said to produce important dreams; in the case of a young girl, the face of her future husband or lover.
Modern English Druids still hold all-night vigils on Midsummer’s Day at Stonehenge and Boadicca’s Tomb, and at Stonehenge, there is a second vigil at noon. Traditional bonfires and a week-long celebration are still held in the high hills of Cornwall, beginning on the Friday nearest to St. John’s Day.
In parts of Yorkshire, flaming wheels are still sent down a hill , representing the waning strength of the sun in the coming months. If the fire remains burning all the way down, it means there will be an abundant harvest. If the fire goes out, the crops will fail.
Midsummer’s Day (June 24) was (and is still in some parts) one of the quarter days when servants were paid, rents were due, and lawsuits settled. The other days were Ladies’ Day (March 25), Michaelmas (September 29), and Christmas (December 25).
In some countries, particularly the Scandinavian ones, Midsummer’s Eve is akin to Christmas in importance. In the province of Galicia, in Spain, the pagan beliefs can be clearly seen from the collection of medicinal plants believed to have special powers during that time to the bonfires people jump over for good luck.
In my story Treasuring Theresa, the local Midsummer Fete plays an important part in revealing the true characters of both Theresa and Damian, whose relationship had a particularly rocky start. Damian, a toplofty viscount who always disdained the country and everything associated with it, is persuaded to take on a leadership role in planning the local festival. In the end, he is the one most surprised by the enjoyment he finds in his association with country folk…and Lady Theresa herself.
Thank you so much for hosting me today. I hope you enjoyed learning about Midsummer’s Eve, even though as I write this, it is nearly Midwinter’s Eve, which tends to be forgotten in the excitement of Christmas. Hmm…perhaps I shall write another story for that season…just in time for a Christmas 2013 release!
Win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!
To celebrate the release of Treasuring Theresa,I am hosting a series of contests on my web site (http://www.susanaellis.com) for the month of January. All you have to do is answer a question about the Regency period (a cinch) and your name will be entered for the next drawing. Winners will be chosen on January 16, 23, and 31.
January 31: a Rafflecopter giveaway
At the betrothal ball of the man she had expected to marry herself, Lady Theresa latches on to the most dashing gentleman present, hoping to divert attention from her own humiliation. That gentleman happens to be her father’s distant cousin and heir, Damian Ashby, a useless London fribble in her opinion. He is not favorably impressed with her either.
But when her father becomes mortally ill and Damian is obligated to spend time with her at the Earl’s country estate, the two of them unexpectedly find admirable qualities in each other and discover a mutual attraction.
But can a London swell and a country lady ever make their diverse lives and interests work together?
Available January 3, 2013 on Ellora’s Cave, January 10 at other e-book retailers.
You can visit Susana Ellis at her website: http://www.susanaellis.com
Susana’s Parlour (blog): http://susanaellisauthor.wordpress.com/