For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the days have become hot, long, and stormy. The Summer Solstice is around the corner, and many cultures are celebrating it, especially around Europe.
The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. For months the sun has been setting later and later, and it will be reaching its peak on the 21st of June.
Americans might see the Summer Solstice as an ancient pre-Christian holiday without much relevance today, but you don’t actually have to travel through time to see it for yourself. You can still find it celebrated in various ways in certain countries.
Here are some of those places, and what they’ll be doing:
Greece – Summer Solstice is the traditional New Year’s Day in Greece, and it also used to mark the beginning of the summer Olympic sports. Some Greek locals still take this time to make an annual trek up Mount Olympus.
Russia – The summer festival in Russia lasts three months (May, June, and July), but the largest celebrations always fall on the Solstice. Festivities include ballet, opera, and many other cultural performances. People also stop wearing colors of winter (black or gray), and start wearing bright colors to the celebrate the season.
Latvia – You won’t get a lot of sleep celebrating the Solstice in Latvia. It is traditional to stay awake the entire night before. Friends enjoy each other’s company by a fire. After the sun rises, they’ll collect a bit of morning dew to wipe on their faces. This ritualistic “cleansing” is said to bring luck. During the day, a great feast is held with many traditional foods.
Austria – Fireworks, bonfires and boat rides mark this summer holiday in Austria. Parties take place on land with a bonfire, but many people also board river boats to see fireworks displays as they drift down the river.
Sweden – Solstice is a time for costumes and maypoles during the day, and a giant bonfire at night. Parties continue on for many hours, until the wee hours of the next morning.
Denmark – You’ll also find bonfires around Denmark, with the added tradition of throwing in a witch made of fabric to burn. The witch symbolizes several things: winter, misfortune, and bad spirits.
Romania – The Summer Solstice is one of Romania’s oldest festivals, and it is celebrated with a rain dance to encourage good harvests for the rest of the year.
Iceland – In this part of the world, the summer solstice is about 72 straight hours of sunlight. To celebrate 3 days without any darkness, there is a huge music festival.
England – No one really knows the origin or purpose of Stonehenge, but it does line up perfectly with the sunrise on the summer solstice. For this reason, it is a popular gathering spot for people to celebrate the holiday, usually with a lot of dancing and drumming.
Portugal – In some countries, the old pagan roots of the Solstice are hidden by Christian traditions. For example, Portugal marks it as the birthday of John the Baptist, and it’s celebrated with street festivals and fireworks.
What kind of Summer Solstice celebrations have you witnessed abroad? Are there any fun traditions that we’ve missed? Share below!