Sunday, June 23, 2013

Is there magic in the air? June 24 is International Fairy Day

This picture dates to 1917 -- well before Photoshop. Little girls were thought too innocent to fake photographs, so many people at the time concluded that the fairies in this picture must therefore be real. No less than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the ├╝ber-rational Sherlock Holmes, was completely taken in by this picture and other, similar ones.

If you're a true believer, we hate to be the one to break the news to you, but this picture doesn't actually show real, live fairies. (Read more here.)

Nevertheless, Monday is International Fairy Day. If you feel there's magic in the air... there just might be.

June 24 is also the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. You'll remember we mentioned this a few days ago, when we talked about Midsummer Night's Eve and the Summer Solstice. Wikipedia says that Mussogrsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" was originally titled "St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain." And, remember how we told you that slipping Midsummer Night celebrations to the eve of St. John the Baptist's Nativity might have been a way to Christianize a pagan holiday? Well, it depends on which Wikipedia article one consults. This one, for example, explains why that may not have been intended and why the Nativity of St. John the Baptist doesn't fall exactly six months before Christmas:
It has often been claimed that the Church authorities wanted to Christianize the pagan solstice celebrations and for this reason advanced Saint John's feast as a substitute. This explanation is questionable because in the Middle Ages the solstice took place around the middle of June due to the inaccuracy of the Julian calendar. It was only in 1582, through the Gregorian calendar reform, that the solstice returned to June 21 as it had been in the fourth century.

Therefore, a more likely reason why the festival falls on June 24 lies in the Roman way of counting, which proceeded backward from the Kalends (first day) of the succeeding month. Christmas was "the eighth day before the Kalends of January" (Octavo Kalendas Januarii). Consequently, Saint John's Nativity was put on the "eighth day before the Kalends of July." However, since June has only thirty days, in our present (Germanic) way of counting, the feast falls on June 24.
In other words, there was an attempt to locate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist exactly six months before Christmas -- but things changed when we changed calendars.

Well, we think that's interesting anyway....

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