June 21st, fittingly, is also the longest day of the year, and the celebrations for the Summer Solstice (Winter Solstice in the Southern hemisphere) or Litha, or Midsummer Night, or
again,Midsummer's Eve celebrations, pagan as they were in origin, involved bonfires. They were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other evil powers.
The lighting of bonfires is still part of the festivities in many countries, such as
St. John's Eve (Britain), Jonines (
According to Wikipedia, where I got most of this information, in Finland, Estonia and Sweden, Midsummer's Eve/Midsummer's Day (Swed.: Midsommarafton/Midsommardagen), is considered the greatest festival of the year, comparable only to Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve.
Gogol wrote a short story called St. John's Eve (1831), which inspired Modest Mussorgsky to create his Night on
Carl Orff wrote another piece for the play, Ein Sommernachtstraum (performed in 1939; re-worked '52 & 62), after Mendelssohn's music had been banned by the Nazis.
The choreographers Marius Petipa, Frederick Ashton and George Balanchine all created ballet versions. In fact, Ashton's The Dream is being shown this month at the Birmingham Hippodrome as part of a Triple Bill called Love & Loss.
Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears turned it into an opera in 1960,
Then there are the FILM versions... One of them, directed by Peter Hall, in 1968, features a nearly naked Judi Dench as Titania opposite Ian Richardson as Oberon, with Ian Holm as Puck - all of them painted green.
This list is of course not at all exhaustive. For even more information, see here.
If you've managed to bear with me so far, you might be in need of a drink by now, and what could be better than Pimm's on a First of June, which has been flaming indeed.
You have seen it before, I'm sure, but just as a reminder, this is how you make your own version of the alcohol content of the Pimm's:
1 part gin
1 part red vermouth
1/2 part Bols Orange Curacao/Cointreau/Grand Marnier
Then use 1 part of it to at least 3 parts of lemonade, plus apples, strawberries, cucumber and mint, and start enjoying the longer evenings! Cheers!