Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Fish Eaters has an excellent article on Saint John the Baptist.
Nota bene: today celebrates John's birthday; his death by beheading, or "decollation," will be commemorated on 29 August. This Feast honors the great St. John, the greatest of all Prophets."
The whole article is very interesting. (As is all of the Fish Eaters website. If you have never perused it, you should!)
Here are some things that I found especially interesting:
1) Saint John the baptist was born without original sin.
"It is interesting to note that this Feast is one of only three Feasts that commemorate birthdays, the other two being the birthday of Jesus on 25 December, and that of Our Lady on 8 September. And what do all three have in common? They were all three born without original sin! Our Lord and Lady were both, of course, conceived without sin, but St. John the Baptist, though not conceived in this way, was filled with grace in the womb of his mother, the aged and barren Elizabeth, and so was born without original sin. This is evident by his recognizing the Savior even in the womb, and by the Angel's words to his father, the priest Zachary (Zacharias) who went to the Temple to pray that his wife should conceive."
2) One of the customs is to make a wreath of flowers for your home.
"Make a wreath of flowers that dry well, and hang in your home all year to be replaced next St. John's Day. Alternatively, flowers can be tied together in bunches with beautiful ribbons and hanged upside-down to decorate your home all year."
3) Another custom of burning sacramentals. Sacramentals are not to be "thrown away" when they wear out, but burned, and the ashe buried. One friend of mine buries the ashes near the border of her property. I have an assortment of broken/worn out brown scapulars that we will burn later today (though in a coffee can as we live in the city & cannot build a bon fire.)
"The temporal focal point of the festivities, though, is the building of fires outdoors in which to burn worn out sacramentals and to serve as a symbol of the one Christ Himself called "a burning and shining light" (John 5:35). "
"As to foods, it's customary to eat strawberries (Our Lady is said to accompany children who pick strawberries on this day). In addition, in Sweden pickled herring, boiled potatoes, sour cream, crisp bread, beer and schnapps are enjoyed, while in Spain they eat figs and a savory pie made with tuna. In Ireland, "goody" is another traditional food -- white bread broken in pieces and boiled with milk, sugar, and spices in a great pot over the fire."
4) The source of Do, Re, Mi, etc. can be found here.
"Another interesting thing about the Feast of St. John: the Breviary's hymn for this day, Ut queant laxis -- the hymn sung or recited during the blessing of the bonfire -- is the source of our names of musical notes -- Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do. The hymn, attributed to Paulus Diaconus (Paul the Deacon, ca. A.D. 720-799), was noted by a monk to rise one note in the diatonic C-Scale with each verse. The syllables sung at each rise in pitch give us the names of our notes (the "Ut" was later changed to "Do" for easier pronunciation)"
5) And finally, and excellent sermon by St. Augustine. You will find it at the end of the article.