The summer solstice has been celebrated in a variety of ways all over the world for centuries. Some traditions date as far back as before Christianity – from Viking feasts and Norse mythology to Druid rituals. This year the longest day of the year falls on June 21 in the top half of the planet. This is when the Earth is inclined at its sharpest angle. The farther North you go, the longer the day is. In some places the Sun doesn’t set for days and even weeks.
Every beach town will have parties and other gatherings organized on popular beaches. Those are almost always a lot of fun. You can also go to a secluded but equally spectacular beach and swim until 9 p.m. or even later. Clear your smog-clogged lungs and breathe some fresh air. Go for a nature spot with a breathtaking sunrise view (from the water) over anywhere else in the city.
This is the fun even if you live in Anchorage, Alaska. The Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K is scheduled for June 23. The event is always held on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice. Bonus: The Marathon course is certified by USA Track and Field and finishers can use their results to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
The Midnight Sun Game, played this year for 113th time on June 21, has been a tradition every year since 1906. The game is played in the middle of the night with only natural light. The Alaska Goldpanners, the most northerly baseball team on the planet, begins the contest at 10:30 p.m. and stretches into the following morning. No artificial lights are used.
This is where the most famous celebration of the summer solstice takes place. And this si where the most devoted fans to the astronomical event. Thousands of people, many of whom wear traditional Celtic attire, camp out for four days every year at the ancient prehistoric site. Many locals believe that Stonehenge was the site of ancient druid solstice celebrations because of the way the sun lines up with the stones on solstices.
Carhenge in Nebraska, or Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo in Texas, or Airstream Ranch in Florida, or perhaps a more realistic replica, the Georgia Guidestones? People often refer to the granite monument as the American Stonehenge. The stones are engraved in eight languages — English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Each relays 10 "new" commandments for "an Age of Reason,” the first of which gets a lot of attention: “Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.”
Midsommar, as it’s called in Scandinavia, is one of the most important events in some countries, most notably Sweden. The day is one of indulgence with its root in pagan ritual. People wear wildflower garlands. They also dance around a maypole decked out in flowers.
Flowers are symbolic of summer solstice. People love to wear flowers like lavender and sunflowers because they are the most popular associated with Midsummer. In general though, all golden, red or orange flowers are. In certain countries, summer solstice is linked to the feast of St. John the Baptist – a day when medicinal plants have “magic power.”
This is big in Denmark. The tradition is to make a big bonfire during the night of the summer solstice – typical all over Scandinavia – but Danish people take it to another lever and burn up scarecrows. Some of them look like witches, which is a tradition just for fun for the kids and “not to be taken seriously.”
This tradition goes back to way back in time, before Christianity. This is how pagans in Europe celebrate Midsummer. They thought that the bonfires will enhance the sun’s energy which will help during the growing season and ultimately with the harvest. Also, bonfires were their way of driving demons out.
Nordic countries are famous for the amazing festivals they organize in honor of the summer solstice. Without a doubt, one of the most popular in the world is the Secret Solstice Music Festival in Reykjavik. The sun does not set at for about three days. More than 100 bands play on several stages, making the show the focal point of the festivities.
Santa Barbara, California, for example, celebrates the official start of the summer with a huge parade and a three-day festival – the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration – with bright colors, lively performances and upbeat music. The party this year is on June 22, 23 and 24 at Alameda Park.
The phenomenon known as White Nights during which the sun is out for weeks in June, makes St. Petersburg, with a northerly latitude of 57 degrees, an amazing place to be. The day is more than 19 hours long on summer solstice. People take boats trips to watch the opening of the bridges, enjoy ballet, opera performances and music shows.
Ever wanted to know what it’d be like to do yoga in the middle of Times Square? The summer solstice is the one occasion of the year you can find out. This year it will take place all day long on Thursday, June 21.
Astronomy lovers and stargazers can come together for a wild party to enjoy the longest day of the year. The most popular such fest is the one in Croatia. AstroFest, an unusual celebration of the summer solstice, is held in the world famous Visnjanu Observatory. There are drum circles, bonfires, music shows, and even lectures.
Visit Canada for the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival in Ottawa. This year’s theme is “From the Land”: An Indigenous Culinary Experience. There will be free culinary demonstrations and displays in the Indigenous Culinary Arts Pavilion.
National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada is June 21. People can learn about Canada’s first peoples including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, the historical significance of the day and the summer solstice, and experience indigenous craft workshops, including birch bark canoe crafting, drum making, and Inuit games.
The Festival of Saint Joan, the Catalan name of St. John the Baptist, is a unique summer solstice celebration in Spain. Equine stunts by 100 Menorca-bred horses and riders are the highlight. There are fireworks, bonfires, jumping through flames for good luck, dipping in the ocean for cleansing. Barcelona is another city in Spain where the festival is massively celebrated.
Summer solstice is time for eating fresh strawberries, at least in Sweden. This is when people eat the first strawberries of the season, usually on top of a cream cake. This year the American Indian Studies in Washington has planned an event to celebrate the century-old celestial event with, among other things, strawberries. They are among the very first fruits of summer, and Native Americans believe they represent good health.
International Surfing Day is held annually on or near the date of the summer solstice. The day is mean to celebrate the surfing lifestyle and the sustainability of ocean resources. But you don’t need a holiday, official or not, to have fun in the water – for 14-15 hours.