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Celebrating Midsummer and the Summer Solstice

Celebrating Midsummer and the Summer Solstice

In simple terms, the Summer Solstice is the day with the longest period of daylight and the shortest night. It is also when the sun is at its highest position in the sky. In the Northern Hemisphere, this occurs around June 20 or 21. Traditionally, the Summer Solstice is considered the middle of summer and is often referred to as Midsummer, particularly in Northern Europe. In many countries, however, the Summer Solstice marks the beginning of summer.

Since ancient times, dating back to the Neolithic era, Midsummer or the Summer Solstice has been significant in many cultures, often celebrated with festivals and rituals. The Solstice's significance varies between cultures but generally involves themes of strength, growth, fertility, and agriculture. Various ancient monuments across Europe align with the sunrise or sunset during the Solstice, underscoring its importance.

In Nordic countries, Midsummer has long been a major holiday. In Sweden, it is still considered a public holiday, rivaling Christmas for some. The Summer Solstice is viewed as a spiritually powerful time of transformation and new beginnings. As the seasons change, it is believed that we undergo an internal process of change, moving from self-reflection to action or self-transformation.

There are many thoughts about Midsummer and numerous ways to celebrate. Some traditions practiced today originate from pre-Christian pagan folklore. For instance, lighting bonfires and jumping over them was believed to ward off demons or evil spirits and bring good luck to lovers. I recall my first visit to Norway during Midsummer when my cousins built a fire. We didn’t jump over it, but I was told it kept the trolls away. Folklore often depicted trolls as malevolent beings. Another pagan tradition was wearing a protective garland of herbs and flowers, with St. John’s Wort being particularly powerful.

In Christianity, the Summer Solstice is associated with the birth of John the Baptist and is also known as St. John’s Day. Native Americans also observe the Solstice, celebrating the new season and the belief that the sun brings the Great Spirit. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs and Chinese all celebrated the Solstice with traditions similar to those of Northern Europeans. It seems we have more in common than we realize.

Historically, the Summer Solstice is rooted in paganism, known as the Festival of Litha, and is considered one of their most important holidays. Today, many cultures blend old and new traditions to celebrate Midsummer. Pagan dances might translate to the Maypole dancing I remember from childhood. Flower crowns and garlands, singing, dancing, and bonfires remain common. Towns often hold festivals or fairs with these activities and plenty of sweets.

It occurs to me that our modern summer activities are deeply rooted in these ancient beliefs. Summer is typically a time for vacations, outdoor activities, and changes in routine.

Why not celebrate the new season? It’s as good a time for a party as any! If you’d like to create a celebration for your friends or family, here are a few ideas:

- Bask in the sun and spend time outdoors.
- Fill your day with music.
- Create a summer tea or drink.
- Invite nature in with flowers, plants, etc.
- Reflect on the past season through journaling or meditation.
- Make plans for the new season as a celebration of summer.
- Make a flower crown or garland.

This year, the Summer Solstice takes place on June 20th. Let us know how you will mark the Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, in the comments.

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