Summer Solstice Traditions
The summer solstice is coming up on June 21st, this is the day of the year that has the most hours of daylight in the northern hemisphere, and inversely, it has the fewest number of hours of sunlight in the southern hemisphere. For centuries, people have used this day as a marker on their calendars in order to remind themselves of how much time is left in the year.
June is a traditional month for many weddings due to the fact that the summer solstice also falls in June. Since June is a time when honey has been made easily available, people would often share foods prepared with honey in order to signify that they wanted their lives to be full and sweet. This would later become known as a honeymoon.
On the summer solstice, many people gather at giant structures across Europe and other nations in the world that have stood for centuries. These monolithic structures such as Stonehenge are theorized to have stemmed from people building their calendars upwards and outwards to correspond with where sunlight would fall on this special day.
In Germanic, Slavic, and Celtic tribes, many pagans took to celebrating midsummer and the solstice with bonfires. In later centuries after Christianity had spread across Europe, these pagan customs were adopted and replaced the worship of pagan gods with new Christian traditions and celebrations such as the observance of holidays honoring the works of Christian saints.
Native Americans also have many traditions celebrating the summer solstice. The Sioux in particular were known to practice a dancing ritual which would be performed during the June solstice. Provisions for the dance included cutting and raising a tree in order to signify a visible connection between the heavens and Earth. Additionally teepees would be set up in a circle in order to represent the cosmos. During these rituals participants were to abstain from food and drink during the actual dance itself. Their bodies would decorated in the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light), and black (night).
Modern American culture doesn’t have many of its own unique ways in which it celebrates that summer solstice, rather, since it has such a rich and diverse background, it borrows from many other traditions in its celebrations of this magical time. So while you won’t see many American flags flying over parades or cookouts as Americans tend to do during the summer, you may see groups of yogis practicing sun salutes, or others quietly observing ancient native American rituals.
The summer solstice is truly a day of wonder and awe throughout the world. Find out what your local community may be doing to observe it at your local public library and make the Summer solstice a part of your family’s traditions.