It's been a few days since we sat down to write a post and here's why - today marks the official first day of the summer season for 2011, and we have spent the last week preparing for the traditional celebrations set forth from our founding fathers. Countless civilizations have performed rituals and festivals in honor of the summer solstice throughout history, though none of them matched the flair and bravado of the early United States of America. Given that even in its early days America was considered a melting pot of peoples and beliefs, the founding fathers thought it important to celebrate as many traditions as possible in order to ensure a long and fruitful summer season.
Several weeks would typically go into the planning of Solstice Day, which in fact was the 11th official holiday to be considered after the nation's founding. We here at Lost and Founders take great care each year in performing a historically accurate celebration, and so today now that our preparations are complete we thought it would be enlightening to share a list of the typical traditions kept by the Founders on this auspicious day in case our readers would like to do their own historic celebrations.
Founding Father's Summer Solstice Traditions and Fun Facts:
- The founding fathers would go into the woods and sing songs of merriment on Solstice Eve, staying up all night so that they could welcome the dawn. If anyone fell asleep, silly faces were drawn all over him with quill pens and he was dubbed a "Moon Man" for the day.
- At dawn, the continental congress would light 13 bonfires to provide the sun with a boost of energy. Each bonfire represented one of the original colonies and all were kept lit throughout the day with sticks and small moon effigies made of wax and tinder.
- Countless weddings took place on Solstice Day as it was considered lucky. Many couples met for the first time and married each other that same day due to the influence of the celebratory honey mead that everyone drank in large quantities. This is in fact how notorious bachelor John Hancock finally tied the knot and such events were also the beginning of the infamous "vegas weddings" that rose again to popularity in 1964.
- Colonists would wear garlands of flowers and herbs all day to ward away evil spirits that were said to be common on Solstice Day. For supper the herbs were baked into mince pies and served for evening festivals in order to ward away any spirits that may have gotten into the food.
- George Washington was one of many often known to jump over bonfires, believing that crops would grow as high as he jumped. Whether this actually helped or not has never been proven.
- Benjamin Franklin invented lemonade on one particular Solstice Day by combining lemons, sugar, and honey mead. He proclaimed his famous words "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander lemonade, for that's the stuff life is made of." After that year, lemonade became the official drink of summer.
- No walking was allowed on Solstice Day - everyone was required to either dance or skip when going from one place to another. Skipping was generally the preferred method of movement.
- Fireworks were common in the late evenings and were thrown into the remnants of the bonfires in order to keep the "sun" going in the night sky. Our now common tradition of shooting fireworks on Independence Day actually evolved from the solstice tradition.
Happy Solstice from the Lost and Founders and we wish you the best in keeping history alive!