Welcome to Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club!
This month we are celebrating St. John’s Eve on the 23rd of June.
St. John’s Eve is closely associated with midsummer celebrations and is celebrated in many countries around the world with the lighting of bonfires. Although named for a christian martyr, many of the traditions that survive to this day are pre-Christian in origin. The lighting of fires (and sometimes, the leaping of fires) relates to the belief in the cleansing properties of fire. It was also a time for the gathering of herbs to ward off spirits, especially witches, and chief amongst these herbs was St. John’s Wort, the pungent yellow bloom still in use today for its medicinal properties. St. John’s Day, or midsummer, was fixed as the 24th of June, despite the variation in date of the summer solstice. The saint in question was John the Baptist, born roughly 6 months before Jesus and so his feast day was set 6 months before Christmas Eve, making it one of the few saints days to celebrate the martyr’s birth, rather than death. St. John’s Day became one of the English Quarter Days, the others being Michaelmas, Christmas and Lady Day.
This month’s rolags are bonfire-inspired. You will also find a mini-skein in “charcoal” from Setting the Twist, a bit of heat from your three ginger tea and the gingins chew, soothing bedtime tea containing valerian, which was also collected at this time of year, stitch markers and a notions pouch from Forest Valley Designs to celebrate the solstice and the traditional herb-gathering, a tealight to have your own mini fire, a poem, and a recipe for the celebratory dish called “Goody” which was associated with this festival.
In this box you should find:
- The story of St. John’s Eve
- 10g of rolags in “No Smoke Without” – 50% Grey Suffolk, 20% Yak, 15% Rose, 15% Tussah Silk.
- 20g of reversible-gradient rolags in “Bonfire” – 49% Merino, 21% Tussah Silk, 15% Baby Camel, 15% Faux Angora
- A handspun mini skein in “Charcoal” by Setting The Twist
- Tea in Three Ginger and Bedtime blends
- Stitch markers in “Sun” and “St. John’s Wort” by Forest Valley Designs
- “The Joyful Feast of St. John”
- A recipe for “Goody”
- A tealight
- Gingins ginger chew
“The Joyful Feast of St. John”
Then doth the joyful feast of St. John the Baptist take his turne,
When bonfires great with loftie flame, in every towne doe burne;
And yong men round with maides, doe daunce in every streete,
With garlands wrought of Motherwort, or else with Vervain sweete,
And many other flowre faire, with Violets in their handes,
Whereas they all do fondly thinke, that whosoever standes,
And thorow the flowres beholds the flame, his eyes shall feele no paine.
When thus till night they daunced have, they through the fire amaine
With striving mindes doe runne, and all their hearbes they cast therein,
And then, with wordes devout and prayers, they solemnly begin,
Desiring God that all their illies may there consumed bee
Whereby they thinke through all that yeare from Augues to be free …
From a 16th Century poem by Thomas Kirchmeyer
Ref: Families, Festivals and Food, p.51
Ingredients (all quantities approximate)
- 350 ml milk
- 8 slices of slightly stale bread
- 35g sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Heat the milk in a pan.
- Take the slightly stale bread and tear each slice into smaller pieces. Add the bread to the warm milk.
- Add 25g of the sugar and bring the mixture to the boil.
- Adjust the sugar to taste, and add more milk if needed during cooking.
- Pour the mixture into an oven-proof dish.
- Top with the remaining sugar, mixed with the cinnamon.
- Bake until browned and crispy on the top.
- Serve and enjoy.