The Feast of St. John the Baptist, or the Nativity of St John the Forerunner, sometimes called St. John the Baptist Day, is celebrated on June 24 in many places worldwide, though not much in the United States, as we’ll see below.
Celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist goes back at least a millennium and a half. The Council of Agde mentions the feast in 506 AD in its list of festivals. Most saints’ festivals are tied to their death, but John’s is an exception, connected to his birth.
I saw this famous painting of John the Baptist above by Leonardo da Vinci, believed to be his last painting, in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning “Sun, standing still.” The Summer Solstice occurs on June 21 at 14:58 UTC, Coordinated Universal Time, Zulu Time, or roughly Greenwich Mean Time. Greenwich, England, is the prime meridian — the zero point for longitude lines.
Why is UTC the abbreviation for Coordinated Universal Time? The acronym was a compromise between English and French speakers: Coordinated Universal Time would usually be abbreviated as CUT, and the French name, Temps Universel Coordonné, would be TUC.
Summer Time and the Summer Solstice
This is also known as the Northern Solstice because the Sun is positioned directly above the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere.
- This time of year is known as Midsummer, though the official Midsummer Day is celebrated on June 24, thanks to differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
- Christian festivals related to the Birth of St. John the Baptist are held during this time of year. In Bolivia and Peru, it’s called the Festival of San Juan.
[NOTE: I wrote a more extended and serious version of this article for CBS.com several years ago. It has been published on their network of sites for major cities nationwide. You can find that article here.]
Origin of Father’s Day
The celebration of Father’s Day goes all the way back to the beginning, actually to the Garden of Eden when Abel gave his father Adam a razor while his brother Cain gave his father a snake-skin tie. This was the beginning of Cain’s downward slide.
Scholars have debated for ages why Mother’s Day seems to be more honored than Father’s Day. A parallel has been drawn between this phenomenon and the difference in popularity between the Irish and Italian patron saints.
HISTORY OF JUNETEENTH: and the Emancipation Proclamation
June Nineteenth, or Juneteenth, marks the celebration of the emancipation of African-American slaves in Texas in 1865. While the annual celebration started in Texas the following year in 1866 – and became an official Texas state holiday there in 1980 – this formerly obscure holiday is now observed across the United States and worldwide.
In June 2021, Congress and the President made it an official federal holiday. It is celebrated with church-centered celebrations, parades, fairs, backyard parties, games, contests, and cookouts.
It has been called a “holiday commemorating the end of slavery” (Britannica.com) or that it “commemorates an effective end of slavery in the United States” (History Channel.)
…but was it?
Origin of Juneteenth
Initially, it began in Galveston, Texas, to mark the arrival of U.S. Army Major General Gordon Granger, along with 20,000 Union Army troops, who arrived two months after the end of the American Civil War to read General Order Number 3, which announced that “all slaves are free.” It read:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
June 14 is the day the United States celebrates Flag Day. While it may not be as widely celebrated as other American holidays, it is one of the oldest. It was resolved by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, even before the conclusion of the American War of Independence, the Revolutionary War.
In 1885, BJ Cigrand, a Wisconsin schoolteacher, initiated a “Flag Birthday” for his students on June 14. His continual promotion of this “Flag Day” inspired New York kindergarten teacher George Balch in 1889 to have similar observances for his students. The State Board of Education for New York followed suit. The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia had a Flag Day in 1891, and the New York Society of the Sons of the Revolution the following year. Other state organizations in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois followed suit.
HISTORY OF D-DAY
Why has D-Day captured the imagination of American consciousness for over three-quarters of a century?
Seventy-nine years ago, on June 6, 1944, the Allies launched an offensive on the Normandy coast of France to liberate continental Europe from the Nazi German occupation. On Twitter, the hashtag is #DDay79
D-Day was the largest invasion by sea in all of history, literally turning the tide. It was the beginning of the end of the War. General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, sent the troops out that day:
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle.”
70 Years Ago Today: Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Seventy years ago today was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-ruling British monarch, at Westminster Abbey.
I wrote the following article about her celebrating her 70-year Platinum Jubilee Celebration last June. Little was I to know that just three months later when I was visiting England that I would hear:
The Queen is dead
Long live the King
Queen Elizabeth II of the UK has ruled for 70 years, marking her Platinum Jubilee celebration. While she took the throne on February 6, 1952, she was not coronated (officially “crowned”) until June 2, 1953, or 69 years ago today, at Westminster Abbey. But what’s a year between friends?
She is the longest-reigning British monarch in history but not yet the longest-reigning monarch in the world or even in Europe. The longest-reigning monarch was Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, who came to the throne just short of six years of age and ruled for 72 years, 110 days.
For all of America’s Republic-loving rhetoric, we are envious of the UK and its royalty. We have artificial royalty, marked by either film, finances, or even people who are celebrities for being celebrities.
It was twenty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
Rock & Roll in the late ’60s was exemplified when The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the U.S. on June 2, 1967. It was released in the U.K. the day before. No other rock & roll album defined the soundtrack of the Summer of Love better than Sgt. Pepper. It captured the fantasy, psychedelics, love, and drugs of 1967. Especially with the last song, “A Day In The Life,” which urged
“I’d love to turn you on.”
In 1967 I was on a school field trip to San Francisco. Directly across the street from Ghirardelli Square was a record store where I bought my copy of Sgt. Pepper. It felt almost scandalous to bring it home to my small town because “everyone knows it’s all about drugs,” or so people thought. I did now know it at the time, but that was not entirely incorrect, as we’ll see.
Several years ago, the six-disc boxed set 50th Anniversary (Remix) Edition of Sgt. Pepper was released by Giles Martin, the son of the original Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin.
In this, the final article in the series on the 55th anniversary of the Summer of Love, I’ll discuss the significance of Sgt. Pepper as it kicked off that iconic summer of sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
HISTORY OF JUNE
June represents the year’s halfway point, the sixth of the twelve months of both the Gregorian calendar, which we currently use in the West, and the earlier Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar, the namesake of July.
Where do we get the name for June?
What’s In A Name?
Ovid, author of that bi-millennial best-selling magnum opus “Metamorphoses” – where he takes the Greek myths and gives them Roman names – suggests two possible etymologies.
- The first and more likely origin is the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter, who was referred to as Hera by the Greeks. She is the patroness of marriages, and most marriages happen during June. It was considered good luck to get married during June, though the good weather and school vacation could have something to do with it now.
- Ovid also suggested that the month was named for Iuniores, Latin for “young people,” in the same way that May is named for “elders” or Maiores. And as we all recall from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” there was no J in Latin in the 1st century.
The Feast of Pentecost is taken from the Greek word πεντηκόστη which means “the 50th,” referring to the fiftieth day after Passover and Easter. This would coincide with the harvest festival Shavuot the “Feast of Weeks in the Jewish calendar.”
In the Christian calendar, Passover played a part in several visits Jesus made to Jerusalem, but most famously, it marked the coming of the Holy Spirit, as “tongues like as of fire” upon the Disciples of Jesus along with the sound of rushing wind, as told in the New Testament Book of Acts Chapter 2.
Pentecost in Church History
This marked the beginning of the work of the Church following the Resurrection of Jesus. As the New Testament tells us that Jesus remained with his Disciples for 40 days following his Resurrection before his Ascension into heaven (celebrated last Sunday), this would mark ten days following the Ascension of Jesus. This event was associated with the Disciples speaking in other languages.
Many visitors to Jerusalem, who were likely there at the time for the Feast of Passover, were curious about the meaning of the flames, wind, and foreign tongues — some familiar to them. The Apostle Peter gave his first sermon, and the Church in Jerusalem grew from 120 believers to 3,000.
The city of Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, an American village on the National Historic Register, claims to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, as do at least 24 other towns in America. I first visited this hamlet near State College, home of Penn State University, decades ago. Boalsburg’s claim goes back to a practice at the end of the Civil War. The town has a local museum and a history stretching over two centuries. The 19th-century feel of the village persists. A Memorial Day Festival is held there every year.
Memorial Day Custom
Its claim is stated on a large sign near the center of town:
An American village on the National Register
BIRTHPLACE OF MEMORIAL DAY
The custom of decorating soldiers’ graves was begun here in October 1864, by Emma Hunter, Sophie Keller, and Elizabeth Myers.
Named for David Boal who settled here in 1798. Village laid out in 1808. Boalsburg Tavern built in 1819. Post Office established 1820. First church erected 1827. Home community of three United States ambassadors.
This week we celebrate the 86th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. On May 27, 1937, the bridge opened to traffic after taking over five years to build. I remember asking my father when I was young:
“Why isn’t the Golden Gate Bridge golden?”
He didn’t have an answer other than his observation that it was expensive to paint.
Color of Golden Gate Bridge
He didn’t know that the steel for the bridge, which came from Bethlehem Steel foundries in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, originally came coated with a red lead primer. Color studies by consulting architect Irving Morrow arrived upon what’s now become known as Golden Gate Bridge International Orange, a unique “red terra cotta” version of the International Orange standard. But there were other competitors, as pictured above. “Warm Grey” was a distant second choice. If you like the color, you can obtain it from Sherwin Williams, the supplier, as “Firewood” (color code SW 6328).