Those who follow our blog know we love to celebrate the seasons, much as all of humanity has celebrated seasons since time immemorial. We always try to get an ode in to the season du jour, be it fall, winter, spring or summer, and revel in the ebb and flow of nature, perhaps more introspectively during fall, more outwardly looking in spring. It is now summer time. And for this summer solstice Deanna Balestra joins us with a guest post on worldwide solstice celebrations, a time of brightness, perhaps even of hope. Here’s to a great summer.
– Carl Kruse
Summer Solstice Celebrations Around The World
The summer solstice in June arrives when the northern pole of the Earth has its maximum tilt toward the sun, making it the longest day and shortest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. Many people don’t realize that without Earth’s slight tilt we would have no seasons and life would be quite different on Earth. Anyway, the solstice is called “Midsummer” in some parts of the world but due to seasonal differences throughout the globe, such as in the United States, the event marks the beginning of summer instead of the midpoint. Either way, it is often seen as a celebration of fertility, romance, and the sun. People from all corners of the Earth celebrate, some a little on the bizarre side, with glee.
Midsummer In Sweden
When many people imagine summer solstice celebrations they picture the traditional maypole dance in Sweden. This colorful solstice celebration was recently brought to the spotlight in U.S. culture when it was featured in a horrifying movie Called Midsommar where tradition and ritual take a dark turn. However, the brightly colored outfits, the flower crowns, and the maypole dance are beautiful and joyous, and the celebration itself has a long history of happiness. Besides dancing, Sweden’s traditions also involve feasting on herring and drinking plenty of vodka. The romance is such that Sweden has a significant baby boom about nine months later each year. Vodka just might also have something to do with this trend.
The United Kingdom And Ireland
Home to a rich pagan history, Great Britain has quite a gathering at Stonehenge for the summer solstice. People dress as pagans and druids to witness the perfectly aligned sunrise. This year, due to the global pandemic, people will tune in virtually to watch the sunrise. There are parties, plays, bonfires, and other celebrations throughout the country. The U.K. was also home to Shakespeare who wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired by the holiday celebrations.
Ireland has been celebrating summer solstice for more than 5,000 years and the country marks the day by honoring historical sites, as well as Irish art and culture. In the past, winter was especially hard on Irish farmers, and summer was a huge relief when it finally arrived.
Pagan Traditions From Greece
Long before Christianity white-washed pagan traditions, certain summer solstice rites and celebrations were common in the Greek isles. One of the oldest rituals involves young girls gathering water from the sea. Also, unmarried women gathered personal belongings and left them in a pot under a fig tree overnight. The long day supposedly imbued these items with power and that night the girls would dream of their future husbands. The following day, women would take turns pulling the items from the pots to tell rhymes about the girls and their future lovers. Could be fun.
Yoga In India
Not surprisingly, International Day of Yoga and Summer Solstice falls on the same day. There are mass yoga practices throughout India to celebrate the sun. Again, this year’s celebrations might look different as leaders are discouraging mass events during the pandemic. The country will host a day of yoga from home with virtual events.
Cupid Day In Eastern Europe
Summer solstice and Ivan Kupala Day are one and the same in Eastern Europe with romantic Slavic celebrations. Traditionally, it is a night for people to fall in love. Young unmarried women line up on one side of a river and float floral wreaths downstream to bachelors on the other side who try to catch them. Today it’s just a game but in the distant past, some of these couples actually married. Who are we to judge? Today we swipe left or right on an app called Tinder to meet potential mates.
Summer Solstice In Spain
It’s an explosion of lights in Spain with firework celebrations and bonfires. Special light beacons are ritualistically lit through Spain, the Pyrenees, Andorra, and France. In this area of the world, the solstice is tied to feelings of belonging and community. It can also mark the transition from childhood to adulthood for some teens. You’ll also find parades and dances throughout the country.
The United States
The United States is vast and is a melting pot of cultures. This leads to some unique celebrations across the country. It’s mostly large parties, drinking, and fun summer rituals that get people outdoors. You’ll find planned festivals and mass gatherings all around, well, in any year without a global pandemic that is.
One World – Summer Solstice During A Pandemic
The summer celebration this year is a bit different. A global pandemic has brought the world to its knees with many people locked indoors in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. With hotter temperatures hopefully weakening the virus and many countries easing off quarantine, more and more people are getting outdoors. However, social distancing needs to stay in place for the foreseeable future. So here are some ways we can celebrate virtually.
Many countries will be live streaming open-air theatrical plays, concerts, and firework displays so people can watch from the safety of their homes. Many summer solstice events will take place on Facebook Pages, YouTube live, and Zoom. As a family, you can also take time to enjoy the sun during the day and maybe have a bonfire at night. No one will mind if you choose to do a pagan dance around the bonfire, that’s none of our business.
Happy Summer Solstice!
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT org
P.S. The Kennedy Space Center has a quick quiz to test your knowledge of the sun and of the solstice. How much do you know? Check it out at https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/blog/solar-system-spotlight-sun