When the tilt of the Earth’s semi-axis is most inclined toward the sun, what you get (depending on hemisphere) is the summer solstice: the longest day of the year and precursor to its hottest season.
Also called Midsummer, Litha, or St. John’s Day, the late-June genesis of summer has been cause for celebration for centuries.
And why not? With summer comes beach vacations, ice cream, suntans and more. But historically, it’s less about summer lovin’ than it is about the summer solstice means a lot more than seasonal tropes, which, let’s face it, can get a little boring as far as festivities go.
Here’s some creative suggestions for incorporating multicultural summer solstice traditions into your celebration this year.
1. Stonehenge spiritualism
The tradition: Every year, tens of thousands gather around Stonehenge in England as part of Druid tradition, celebrating the sacred power of light and life. At Stonehenge, visitors introduce themselves into a continuum of ancestors that may have celebrated at this place; Druids circle around the stones and raise their hands to the rising sun accompanied by beating drums in an act of pagan spiritualism.
How you can celebrate: Even if you can’t travel, you can nod to this tradition at home. Try waking up early and visiting a place that has ancestral significance with a view of the sky. There you can do yoga as the sun rises (as is often done at Stonehenge).
2. Bonfire bliss
The tradition: Bonfires are key to the summer solstice experience across the world. Bonfires are lit in recognition of the sun’s power, and/or to encourage good crops; the tradition remains active in Sweden, Norway, Russia, Canada, and elsewhere.
How you can celebrate: If you able, why not go camping with friends, and light a bonfire fire in an open (and safe) space? Have some s’more, dance around the flames, etc. If you live in a city, some scented candles should do the trick.
3. Magical plants
The tradition: Since magic is supposed to be strongest at midsummer, many cultures have incorporated the magic qualities of plants and flowers into their traditions. In Sweden, there are flower-festooned maypoles, rituals, and mystical herbs; in Russia, young girls float flower garlands in the river to tell their fortunes.
How you can celebrate: Buy or pick some beautiful flowers and decorate your space. Heck, why not go all-out Coachella and weave them into a crown? As for mystical herbs, if it’s legal in your state, you can even smoke your way into the summer, dude.
4. Equality for all (especially women)
The tradition: In Ancient Greece, the summer solstice festival Kronia turned social scripts upside down, allowing slaves to partake in merriment alongside their masters. In Rome, women were allowed to enter a sacred temple on this day only; in China, femininity and the Earth were honored as the “yin” to winter’s “yan.”
How you can celebrate: While these days there’s certainly more equality, that doesn’t mean showing extra respect for underdogs, women, or those who serve and help us. Try tipping your waiter a little extra, treating a special lady to lunch, or honoring femininity with a girls’ night.
5. Midnight Sun Games
The tradition: In Alaska, the Earth’s most Northern baseball team the Alaska Goldpanners take advantage of the daylight with the “Midnight Sun Game,” which starts at 10:30pm stretching into the morning, without need for artificial light.
How you can celebrate: Maybe baseball isn’t your thing, or else you don’t have the field space of athleticism. If so, there are plenty of games you could play in the later hours — Midnight Sun Beer Pong, anyone?