In Sevrin, no one sleeps on Midsummer’s Eve. If asked why, most people would shrug and smile and repeat some variation of, “What’s the point? The night’s too short to bother.”
It’s true that the midsummer nights are very short. Sevrin lies far to the north, and in midsummer the sun sets only an hour or two before midnight. But the real reason for Sevrin’s wakefulness lies in the ancient custom of Walkers Vigil.
Legend has it that the spirits of those destined to die in the coming year will walk during the short night hours. Since dreams were regarded as a gateway to spirit realms, staying awake was one way to ensure the spirit stayed put.
To most people, however, Vigil is an excuse for a party. The night is celebrated with song and dance, courtship rituals and divination. The most distinctive characterisics of vigil, however, are fire and mead.
Darkness is held at bay with candles and lanterns, bonfires and fireworks displays. Some people still follow the old custom of placing candles all around their home, creating a circle of light that no spirit can cross.
Honey is harvested in early summer. The day before the summer solstice, honey wine is made and set up in primary fermentation. At the next full moon it’s put into oak casks to age for two years. The ritual of “summersweet”–tapping the casks for the first official sample of mead–takes place at sunset on Midsummer’s Eve.
Midsummer is also a time for storytelling. Traditional stories–most of them having to do with the fey–are spoken, sung, acted, or danced.
Such tales are also told on the mainland, but never in public and certainly not during the days and nights surrounding the solstice. Many people believe that the borderland between the mortal and the fey realm thins during the solstice, allowing fairies to slip across to bedeviled humans. It is not prudent to draw the attention of the fey. Some people leave out offerings, most commonly honey cakes and small bouquets of yellow flowers, hoping that any wandering fairy will take the gifts and move on.