It is that time of the year that Freemasons talk about Saint John. Well actually, it is one of these times of the year. There are two Saints John who play a part in Freemasonry. So what about these Johns?
The two Johns are John the Apostle or John the Evangelist and the other one is John the Baptist. In the Catholic calendar celebrations for them are on 27 December for the Apostle and 24 June for the Baptist (his birth, there are other celebrations concerning John the Baptist). Both Saints John are patron saints of Freemasonry, so it is not strange that their holy-days are celebrated. More than one lodge has been named after either Saint John as well.
Looking at the dates, you may note that the fall around the days on which summer and winter start, the longest and the shortest day of the year. These happenings are called Solstitiae or Solstices. This is a clear example of the fact that in Freemasonry not only building symbolism is used, but also light-symbolism, in this case the course of the sun in particular. John the Baptist gave Jesus the light of baptism so his holy-day is in the lightest period of the year. I guess the Evangelist is supposed to bring the light in the darkest period of the year with his writing.
In Masonic practice, the summer solstice often is the closing of the working year. After which the holiday period starts in which there are no, or at least much fewer, meetings. The winter solstice has a bit more of a Christmas glean around it. However it is early in the new working year, it is a peak in the Masonic calendar. In a certain sense the celebration closes the “profane” (not-Masonic) year.
Both Saint John celebrations are used to organise a good meeting with a beautiful ritual. Many lodges have their own celebrations, mostly open for members of other lodge-members as well. Some orders have celebrations for their entire organisation, so you can imagine that such as gathering is much larger than just one lodge.
These celebrations are a good way for people to get to a lodge that they keep promising they will visit, but full agendas prevent them from doing so. A bigger event is a good excuse to clear a day in the agenda.
Freemasons are practical people. The celebrations are usually not held on the actual dates of the holy-days of the Saints John or the actual dates of the solstices (for lodges who prefer to refer to the solstice rather than to a Christian saint), but in the closest weekend, or not even, when other lodges have solstices as well. You better pick a date with the biggest change of many visitors. It is not uncommon that one Freemason visits several Saints John, at his/her own lodge, at a befriended lodge and of the entire order for example. Busy times.
So, when on some forum, Facebook group or whatever and you see Freemasons talking about Saint John or a solstice, now you at least have some idea of what this is about.