1st – St Wistan’s Day
A Saxon prince who died in AD 850.
2nd – St Elmo’s Day
Patron saint of stomach disorders and bowel troubles.
The flickering electrical flashes seen on ships masts around the time of a storm is named St Elmo’s fire after him.
“Sometime I’d divide and burn in many places: on the topmast,
The yards and bowspit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join.”
4th – St Petroc’s Day
St Petroc founded two monastries in Cornwall, at Padstow and Little Petherick.
5th – St Boniface’s Day
Born in Crediton, Devon, in 675, he wrote England’s first Latin Grammar, and was an influential missionary, converting the German and Frankish tribes. He was murdered in about 754.
7th – St Colman’s Day
His well stands by the ruined Church of Cranfield in County Antrim, and visitors would go and take the water to find a cure for their ills.
8th – St William of York’s Day
William was the nephew of King Stephen and was Archbishop of York in 1141. Thirty six miracles are attributed to him.
Edward the Black Prince died on this day in 1376. He always wore black armour, and gained great honours early, helping to win the Battle of Crecy in 1346, at the age of 16.
Robert the Bruce died on this day in 1329.
9th – St Faustus’ Day and St Columba’s Day
St Faustus said to St Medard, “Barnabas and Vitus are my neighbours, and together we will give the country folk a good washing till Frederick the Hollander (July 18th) comes and closes the doors of Heaven.”
St Columba lived on the Isle of Iona. Credited with numerous miracles, such as driving away a monster that lived in Loch Ness.
“If you wear the flower of St John’s Wort in your armpit like St Columba did, it will ward off evil.”
This day is a very lucky day, especially when it falls on a Thursday, as it does this year (2011).
11th – St Barnabas’ Day
Martyred in AD71. An early Christian disciple companion of St Paul (formerly Saul – a member of the Sanhedrin). A dozen or so ancient churches are dedicated to him.
This day was much celebrated in the 15th and 16th centuries, when churches were decorated with garlands of roses, woodruff and lavender. Collections were made for the poor.
‘Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright,
The longest day and the shortest night!’
St Barnabas’ Day is the traditional start of hay-making. ‘By St Barnabas put scythe to grass.’
When Barnaby bright shines night and day,
Poor ragged robin blooms in the hay.
13th – St Anthony of Padua’s Day
He died in 1231, and is invoked in finding lost objects.
This is the day of the Celtic god Nodons. He had a shrine at Lydney, in the Forest of Dean.
Today in 1645 the Battle of Naseby took place. Charles I and his army suffered a crushing defeat.
15th – St Vitus’ Day
Because angels danced for him (allegedly) when he was in prison, he’s the patron saint of dancers. Also, he is the patron saint of nervous disorders and also helps sluggards get out of bed.
‘If St Vitus’ Day be rainy weather
It will rain for thirty days together.’
On this day in 1215 King John (1167-1216) set his seal on Magna Carta – “Given by our hand in the meadow that is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June in the seventeenth year of our reign” – Magna Carta (1215).
On this day in 1939 a downpour of tiny frogs fell on Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
17th – St Botolph’s Day
Boston in Lincolnshire is named after him – ‘Botolph’s Town’.
Wat Tyler, the leader of the Peasant’s Revolt, was killed today in 1381.
18th – The Battle of Waterloo, 1815
21st – Summer Solstice
The shortest night of the year, celebrated by the Druids. People gather at Stonehenge to watch the sun come up over the heel stone (in the erroneous belief that the monument is aligned on the mid-summer sunrise, when it fact it is aligned on the mid-winter moonrise).
Every summer solstice crowds gather at the Parish Church of Edward the Confessor in Leek, Staffordshire, to witness the strange double sunset. From the north east corner of the churchyard, known as Doctor’s Corner, due to the eight doctors buried there, the sun sinks behind Cloud End Hill, only to reappear further north a hew minutes later and set for a second time.
If the cuckoo is heard today, it foretells a wet summer.
22nd – St Thomas Moore’s Day
Executed in 1535, a martyr to the Catholic faith, refusing to recognise Henry VIII as head of the Church.
23rd – Midsummer Eve. Also St John’s Eve
To all young girls – Go clockwise round the church seven times at midnight tonight, and over your left shoulder you will see the form of your future lover.
‘Hempseed I sow, hempseed I sow,
Let him that is my true love come after me and mow.’
Activities on this day included dancing around bonfires, gathering branches and flowers to decorate the home and ward off evil spirits, and performing rituals to see the identity of guture spouses.
“If we shadows have offended
Think but this, and all is mended.
That you have but slumbered here,
While those visions did appear.”
(Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
24th – Midsummer Day / St John the Baptist’s Day
Midsummer was one of the high spots of the festival year in medieval times.
To dream of a future lover tonight, sleep with a lump of coal under your pillow. And it is said if you run backwards around Chanctonbury Ring in Sussex seven times at midnight the devil will appear with a bowl of porridge.
Gooseberries officially ripen today.
St John the Baptist was born 6 months before Christ. He preached in the wilderness of Judaea and baptised converts in the River Jordan (converts to what? – he hadn’t even met Jesus at that time, let alone learned about the new religion). His day has always been a time of outdoor celebration, houses were decorated with greenery, and the ashes of the midsummer fire were used to tell fortunes and foretell the future.
The flower St. John’s Wort was traditionally picked on this day to protect against evil and cure many ailments.
He was a well known saint in England, and his symbol, the lamb, made him popular in the old wool producing countries. Five hundred churches in England are dedicated to him.
“Cut off thistles before St John,
You will have two instead of one.”
‘If the cuckoo sings after St John’s Day, the harvest will be late.
26th – St Anne’s Day
This used to be the date for the old Pershore Fair in Worcestershire, celebrating the cherry harvest.
“The cuckoo comes in April, and sings his song in May.
He buys a horse at Pershore Fair and then he rides away.”
28th – St Peter’s Eve / St Paul’s Eve
This day was formerly marked by festivities and rituals similar to Midsummer Eve. Fairies and witches were said to be about between the two dates. In parts of Lincolnshire young girls believed that they would dream of their future husband if they went to bed with a bunch of keys tied with a lock of their hair.
29th – St Peter’s Day / St Paul’s Day
They were apostles of Jesus Christ, allegedly, who were martyred at Rome by Emperor Nero. Over a thousand churches are dedicated to St Peter. His symbol is the crossed keys.
On this day churches dedicated to St Peter were strewn with sweet meadow hay.
‘Unless the apples are christened by the rain on St Peter’s Day, the crop will not be good.’
Hereward the Wake died on this day in 1071, murdered by the Normans.
Everard Digby died today in 1606. One of the Gunpowder plotters, he was hung, drawn and quartered, and when his heart was plucked from his chest it was declared, “Here is the heart of a traitor!” Digby, crowd pleaser to the last, replied, “Thou liest!”
In 1859 Charles Blondin was the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
In 1894 on this day London’s Tower Bridge was officially opened.
In 1980 the British sixpenny piece ceased to be legal tender.