Rather than trying to stamp out such pagan festivals, the early Catholic Church found it useful to coopt them by associating them with Christian celebrations.By establishing December 25 conveniently close to the winter solstice as the date when Jesus was born, the Church was able to absorb the pagan midwinter festival of Yule into the Christian celebration of Christmas. John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus, meaning that his birthday could be equally conveniently associated with pagan summer festivals.
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Given Scandinavia’s long, dark winters, it’s not surprising that the arrival of summer is a big deal throughout the Nordic countries.
In Sweden, Midsummer’s Eve is one of the most important days of the year, rivaling Christmas with its festive spirit and traditions.
In 1952 the Swedish Parliament decided that Midsummer should always be celebrated on a weekend.
As a result, the observance of Midsummer now varies between June 20 and 26.
Some sources also attribute the perpetuation of the term , meaning “to decorate with green leaves.” Though the tradition of decorating the maypole with leaves seems to be a Germanic addition, the origins of the maypole itself date back to early medieval festivals in France, when the Carolingian kings would muster their troops on May 1.
Among other contests archers would compete in shooting at a bird (real or fake) placed at the top of a tall pole.
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It came to Sweden in the late Middle Ages from Germany, where the pole was decorated with leaves and raised on May 1 (hence the name).
Since spring comes later to Sweden it was hard to find the greenery to decorate the pole on May 1, so the tradition was moved to Midsummer.
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