On this day we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
"When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, 'No. He will be called John.' But they answered her, 'There is no one among your relatives who has this name.' So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, 'John is his name,' and all were amazed."
Click here for the Mass and here for the Liturgy of the Hours.
For a scholarly study of this intriguing figure, see >The Immerser: John the Baptist Within Second Temple Judaism, by Joan E. Taylor, Eerdmans, 1997. Every aspect of his life is examined and set in context, including what kind of belt he wore over his camel hair garment. Professor Taylor explains why John ate locusts and honey instead of bread and wine: "they were neither subject to human control nor the result of human labor". She refutes the idea that John was connected to or influenced by the Essenes. Suggested search terms: Jesus, Essenes, locusts, naked, Herod, camel.
The ancestors celebrated the summer solstice with bonfires and feasting. Then, with the coming of Christianity, the midsummer festivities, with their magic and their dreams, became the eve and the feast of St. John the Baptist. It's a fitting day for us to reflect on our own baptisms, and to recall our parents who arranged them, the godparents who spoke for us, the saints whose names we were given, and the baptizers who administered the sacrament to us.
Some Wikipedia articles:
St. John's Eve.
John the Baptist. This article includes information on the importance of John the Baptist in other religions, including Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.