The days are stretching lazily across the Northern Hemisphere, and today week marks the Summer Solstice, or as some say, Midsummer’s. One of the brightest and most joyous of holidays, the Solstice declares the longest day of the year and the beginning of the summer season. It is one of the most ancient holidays on our calendar and thought by some historians to have been observed since the Stone Age.
One of the most unique – and truly beautiful – aspects of the Solstice is the archeological evidence that it was celebrated all over the world from the start. In ancient China, the festival was associated with the celebration of earth and femininity called Yin. Central European tribes historically burned bonfires to encourage a long and prosperous season of growth. In ancient Egypt, the Nile would flood the lowlands and bring rich nutrients to the soil, and this event was honored with festivities.
With mindfulness and a little creativity, we can celebrate this ancient holiday in our own modern lives. If you are able, travel to somewhere sacred – sacred to you. This could be an archeological site of interest (if you are so lucky!) or simply a forest, lake or the ocean; just find a place where the energy shifts. Since it’s the shortest night of the year, the natural world beckons to be experienced in all of its extra light, but perhaps home feels the most sacred for you – wherever you choose to settle for the evening, if the weather allows, just try to be outdoors at some point.
Honoring such a holiday in solitude is always powerful, but the Solstice invites us to come together with our community of friends and family. You can create an evening full of ritual, symbolism and observances or just gather for an informal picnic under the slowly setting sun. Whatever you decide, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Choose local.
Like all of the holidays we’ve learned about over the year, the Solstice is a time for gratitude and abundance. As all of the ancient people of the world understood, the sun brings forth the riches of the earth, and it should be honored for its gift.
If you are planning a picnic or other meal, try to source your ingredients from local purveyors and farmers. It’s the perfect opportunity to not only give thanks to the sun (and to the way it particularly nourishes your surrounding soil), but to those who work so tirelessly in our communities to feed us all. From all of that bounty you’ve acquired from your local farmers, create recipes that are bright, full of flavor and that perhaps you only make on this special day.
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2. Build a ritual.
Here are a few ideas for unique Solstice-appropriate events: berry picking, hiking to the same special place, an evening swim, nighttime garden tending, a picnic, creating flower crowns, and picking flowers and herbs under the Solstice sun for teas, tinctures and herbal remedies. Let your love and creativity be your guiding light here – anything that resonates love and light can become a ritual for you.
3. Find a moment of solitude.
Take a moment to yourself for a sacred summer mediation or yoga practice – think sun salutations and honoring your inner light. Many yogis around the world traditionally complete 108 sun salutations on the Solstice.
4. Practice (group) journaling.
Journaling is always a powerful tool of ritual. If you have children, do this together by giving them a prompt – perhaps, how does the sun make you feel? What do you love to do in the sunshine? Encourage them to express themselves in words, drawings, and collages.
5. Build a fire.
Bonfires are one of the most ancient ways to honor the Summer Solstice. Yours does not have to be a 10-foot-tall beacon – a small fire serves the same symbolic purpose. Fire has always been a source of protection and a powerful antidote to negative energies. Bring loved ones together around the glow and feast and be merry.