As the sun vanished below the horizon on the longest day of the year, the high priestess began to swing the golden censer. As she did so fragrant aromas filled the air. The censer would continue to swing throughout the night, only halting at dawn with the rising of the sun. This signalled to the gathered crowds that it was time for the midsummer bonfires to be lit. The night was to be given over to feasting and merrymaking in celebration of the summer solstice. Men and women, the young and the old, set about the laden tables with gusto. This was a time of celebration.
Over the course of this short night much wine would be drunk and much food eaten. For those with energy, those who had neither eaten too much nor drunk to excess, there was dancing. Music rang out as small bands of musicians struck up tune after tune and wild shadows were seen projected by the light of the bonfires as people cavorted to the music. Every so often couples would be seen drifting off into the surrounding darkness, the occasional giggles and laughter were heard and, half an hour or so later, figures would reappear to rejoin the festivities.
As the night wore on the children would be set to sleeping by the tables, even those who swore they were old enough to make it through this shortest of nights would eventually succumb to tiredness. It was a mark of maturity, a rite of passage, to celebrate the night away for the first time. The adults continued their dancing burning off the wine as they did so. The food and drink fuelled them through the night. Musicians took turn and turn about to entertain and be entertained. All had the chance to enjoy themselves. Jugglers, gymnasts, and fire-eaters put on shows of skill and daring do, giving the revellers a break from their exertions while they watched somebody else’s.
Nobody could remember why this night was celebrated. It had always been so. Just as when winter came they would celebrate shortest day and the return of the sun. There would be an event much the same as this one only there would be more fires to make up for the colder weather. It was all part of the wheel of life, the short day, the long day, in amongst the ever changing seasons these were days that stood out and deserved to be celebrated. As were the equinoxes. The two days, six months apart, when day and night were of equal length. These four days spread over the year gave mankind something to wonder about.
As dawn approached the celebrants energy flagged but the majority of those participating in this special night were awake to welcome the returning sun. The children were woken ready for the moment. As the first rays appeared above the horizon so the censer slowed and stopped. People cheered then hugged and kissed each other. Another mid-summer had been and gone.
Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink June 21st writing prompt competition