"This was regarded as a critical season when witches and noxious dragons were thought to be abroad and particularly active . . ."
"Seasonal Feasts and Festivals"
All over western Europe the antidote to the summer-season invasion was to light bonfires. Whether observed under the name of Summer Solstice, Midsummer's Eve, St. John's Eve or St. Ivan's Eve, the night of June 23 was a time when a wise, witch-fearing populace met to carouse around a fire.
In America, a summer bonfire means a weenie roast; in the name of energy conservation, you can combine the two.
The ingredients of a weenie roast haven't changed since you were 10. Green sticks, whittled to a sharp point (or bamboo or other dry stick soaked in water for several hours, so it will not go up in smoke before the hot dog does), a fire, hot dogs (many health food stores carry nitrite-free frankfurters; some things have changed) and, as a variant on the hot dog bun, pita bread. Spread the pita pockets with mustard, relish and catsup - or try using chutney - slice the roasted hot dogs in half and slide them into the bread. Serve cole slaw, or finger salads of cherry tomatoes, endive, green pepper and lightly cooked green beans to be dipped into a dressing of mayonnaise tarted up with a hot mustard.
For dessert you may borrow an old Swiss custom. There, the only food the peasants ate on St. John's Day was a sweet bread made with aniseed. Using the recipe below, you can make aniseed strips and serve them with coffee ice cream or lemon sherbet.
When everyone has eaten, it will be time to follow the old customs:
As the fire dies down and turns to embers, couples leap across it. If they have a cow, they drive it across also.
In Sweden, a Maypole is erected for people to dance around.
In Latvia, boys chased girls, beating them with cattails.
In London it was a time for four, newly elected Ale Conners to test the beer produced in the City. A pool of beer was poured over a bench. The Ale Conners sat on it. If they stuck to the seat, the quality was pronounced satisfactory.
In Greece, inhabitants of one village would, at the coming of daylight, place the cook in a large cauldron and carry her to a nearby spot to watch the sunrise.
The wise hostess will know her guests and choose the appropriate custom.
(From "Breadcraft," by Charles and Violet Schafer) 1 cup sugar 4 whole eggs 2 egg yolks 2 tablespoons aniseed 2 cups flour Lemon flavoring to taste
In a double boiler, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar until light. Remove from heat and beat until cool. Add the flour, aniseeds and lemon flavoring and beat well. Spoon batter onto a buttered cookie sheet and bake in a 325-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into strips about 1 inch across by 3 inches long. Return to broiler for just a few minutes to toast the strips. Watch them to be sure they don't burn.