Saint John the Baptist, whose nativity is celebrated along with the Midsummer tradition, is an important religious figure, the itinerant prophet and baptizer of the faithful, who was the first to recognize and proclaim the Messiah in Jesus Christ, and the one who baptized Jesus at the Jordan River. John the Baptist is known also as John the Forerunner (for he was the precursor of Christ). John was also regarded as a prophet Yahya in Islamic traditions.
Picture: John the Baptist. Author: Caravaggio.
Taken from http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/caravaggio/john-the-baptist
The feast day in June (or July by the old calendar style) traditionally commemorates St John’s nativity, and falls on the date of the pre-Christian celebration of Midsummer, closely connected with the summer solstice. According to the different ancient systems of calculation, summer solstice usually fell between the 21st and 24th of June. The date of Midsummer nowadays may vary in different regions, where the ancient tradition is strong (as in some Northern Europe countries). In the Christian tradition, John is supposed to be born six months before Jesus, so the date was counted to fall around summer solstice, and the feast date of June 24 was established to overlay the pagan traditions. Still, St John’s Day remains one of the feasts in Europe with the most obvious pagan symbolism.