British Traditions > June

The Anglo-Saxon name for month of June was Seremonath or 'the dry month'. It is possible that the later name June came from either the Roman goddess Juno or Junius Brutus.

St. Barnabas' Day - 11th June

St. Barnabas
Also known as Barnaby Day. Before the change to the Gregorian Calendar June 11th was the longest day of the year and the Feast Day of St Barnabas. Barnabas was a farm labourer and his day was traditionally celebrated by 'Barnaby Fairs'. This day was also the day of hay making and was known by the other name of Barnaby Bright'. There is an old rhyme about June 11th:

Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright,
Longest day and shortest night

In Scotland the traditional name for the first of April is "Gowkie Day" or "Hunt The Gowk". The gowk is a name for the cuckoo which begins to sing in april. In Orkney the day of pranks is traditionally celebrated on April 2nd and was known as "Tailing Day". The celebrations were very similar to those of Christow except that real pigs' tails from the butcher were fixed to coat tails as well as signs.

St. Vitus' Day - 23th June

Also known as St Guy. June 15th was the Feast Day of the patron saint of epileptics and victims of chorea. It is an example of a saint's day (like St Swithin) that is used to predict the weather.

If St Vitus' Day be rainy weather
It will rain for thirty days together

St Alban's Day - 22nd June

This day celebrates the martyrdom of the first person to be killed in Britain for his Christian beliefs. He was beheaded in 287 in Verulamium (St Albans). There is an old belief that weeds cut down on that day will never return.

St John's Day - 23rd June (Midsummer Eve)

The Feast Day of St John is associated with an old prediction that if there is rain on this day the next crop will be spoiled. There was also a traditional saying, 'Before St John's Day we pray for rain: afterwards we get it anyway'.

Feast of St. John The Baptist - 24th June (Midsummer Day)

This day celebrates Jesus' conversion of St John. Traditionally on June 24th bonfires were lit and livestock was driven through the flames to protect the animals from disease. Bracken seeds gathered between 11pm and midnight on this day and placed on a Bible or a white sheet were thought to impart magical powers to people.