Flower

Posts Tagged ‘Summer Solstice’

12 Summer Solstice Celebrations Around the World

Today, June 21, is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Summer Solstice is celebrated around the world and presents a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about world culture because celebrations often incorporate history, folklore, food, clothing, and music.

What Is the Summer Solstice? 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice occurs between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year. Also known as the June Solstice, this is the time of year when the sun reaches its northernmost point from the equator. It is the longest day of the year and considered the beginning of summer. After the solstice, the days start getting shorter, the nights longer.

In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was used to establish calendars and to plan farming cycles. Throughout history, the solstice has been a day of celebration to mark the change of seasons and celebrate the beginning of summer.

12 Summer Solstice Celebrations Around the World

Have your students explore the world through learning about these 12 Summer Solstice celebrations:

Copenhagen, Denmark
Danes celebrate Sankt Hans Aften, also known as St. John’s Eve, during the Summer Solstice. This is a mix of pagan tradition and the celebration of the birth of John the Baptist. On St. John’s Eve, Danes meet with family and friends to have dinner. Then they light a bonfire and throw a straw effigy of a witch on the fire before singing Holger Drachmann’s Midsommervise (1885). The tradition of the bonfire started due to a myth that there was a special power on this night as the witches flew on their broomsticks on their way to Bloksbjerg. The bonfires were lit to keep the evil forces away.

Krakow, Poland
In the city of Krakow, Poles celebrate the midsummer tradition of Wianki. “Wianki” means “wreaths” in English. The holiday originates from the pagan Summer Solstice tradition of floating handmade wreaths down the river. Women wear garlands to celebrate midsummer. Crafts, food, and fireworks are enjoyed as part of the festivities. There is also a Fete de la Musique (Festival of Music) with many performances by artists of various genres of music.

Menorca, Spain
The Festival of St. John combines the Summer Solstice with the birth of Saint John the Baptist. The festivities last a few days and involve bonfires, fireworks, music, and dancing. People drink and celebrate and slap the backsides of large black horses with riders that go up and down the streets. At night people throw sackfuls of hazelnuts at each other as a sign of love.

Mount Olympus, Greece
For 2,500 years, people have been ascending Mount Olympus in Greece on the Summer Solstice. The Summer Solstice is the first of the year according to some Greek Calendars. This trek is considered a mythical pilgrimage where participants walk amidst the “home of the gods.”

New York, New York
In Times Square, the Summer Solstice melds with International Yoga Day for a special Solstice in Times Square event. Termed “Mind Over Madness Yoga,” thousands of yogis with their mats descend on Times Square for meditation and stretching throughout the day. The event was created as a way to draw energy from the sun to reenergize participants through stillness. It is also a counterpoint to the winter event of New Year’s Eve.

Porto, Portugal
Thousands gather in Porto for the Sao Joao Festival to celebrate Saint John the Baptist’s birthday and also to mark the Summer Solstice. The festival lasts over one month but has its pinnacle on the Summer Solstice. The streets are filled with people, music, parties, and food and drink and decorated with St. John’s balloons made of multi-colored paper. Churches are also decorated. People hit passers-by on the head with soft squeaky plastic hammers. At midnight there is a fireworks display along the Douro River to honor the sun.

Riga, Latvia
Jani Day is the year’s most festive holiday. Held on the Summer Solstice, it marks the beginning of the summer’s “white nights,” when the sun sets for only a few hours. Food is prepared weeks in advance. Businesses close for two days. Huge bonfires are lit, and revelers attend parties, dances, and concerts. They sing songs and many stay up all night.

Reykjavik, Iceland
The Secret Solstice Festival. This is a music festival where bands entertain for 72 hours straight. For the fourth year in a row, concerts and parties take place in interesting locations including an ice cave, volcano crater, glacier, and a lagoon heated by volcanic fires.

Santa Barbara, California, United States
The Summer Solstice Parade began in 1974 as a birthday celebration for Michael Gonzales, a popular artist and mime. Since then it has expanded to include a music festival and is now the largest arts event in the area, drawing over 100,000 spectators. There is a large parade with floats, puppets, and fantastic costumes. The festival in Almeda Park has music, food, arts, crafts, and a drum circle.

Stockholm, Sweden
Swedes’ celebration of the Summer Solstice is a national holiday called Midsommar (Midsummer). Celebrations are held in late June (usually around the 20th) when the summer days are much longer than the nights. Most people try to celebrate outdoors in the countryside, where festivities include traditional music, dancing around the maypole, and barbecues and picnics of fresh potatoes, herring, salmon, and strawberries.

Tirol, Austria
Tirol marks the Summer Solstice in town and villages throughout Tirol. After sunset, torches and bonfires are lit on mountaintops all around the country. These fires are a sight to behold illuminating the mountains and creating a beautiful, mystical effect.

Wiltshire, England
Yearly on the Summer Solstice, people gather at Stonehenge to catch the sunrise above the stones. Stonehenge is a prehistorical monument that has associations as an ancient burial ground, astrological observatory, and a general sacred site. On the morning of the Summer Solstice, thousands gather dressed in flowers, glitter, and Druid costumes to gaze at the sun, dance, and drum. If you stand at just the right place, you will see the sun rise above the Heel Stone.

Point your students to CultureGrams for more information on the holiday and seasonal traditions of the countries of the world.
Don’t have CultureGrams? Free trials are available.