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St. John's Day (Feast of St John the Baptist)

St. John's day on June 24 had long been celebrated as the festival of Midsummer, with festivities, as usual beginning on the evening before. It is likely that the traditional activites taken part in on that day were hold-overs from pagan times and after the thirteenth century were actively disapproved of by the clergy. It did not help that the villagers seemed to be especially fond of participating in their activies in the churchyard.

The festivities featured wrestling and races with the gambling that went with them, dancing and singing, and a great deal of eating and drinking.

There would also be plays, called somergames, often improvisational, with the audience interacting with the performers. These usually were loosely based on a theme from scripture, but with no intention of accuracy.

The excesses of the feasts were the only outlet the peasant farmers had after the day by day heavy labour of their year. Once St. John's Day was finished they knew it was not only back to work, but to an intense harvesting to prepare for the winter. The entire village would take part, with women and children working along with the men to accomplish their task. Their survival depended on it.