The summer solstice occurs this Thursday, June 21st, at 2:06 p.m., which means that the year’s longest days will gradually get shorter as the season of summer ripens.
Though many of us are, in fact, freer to stay up later to enjoy summer evenings that seem longer, the days will actually continue to shorten by one minute (or less) until winter solstice occurs near Christmas time and the light gradually begins to come back. Everything’s reversed in the earth’s southern hemisphere (where this week marks winter solstice).
The summer solstice was an important moment in the calendar of the polytheistic, nature-worshipping Druids of Western Europe and the British Isles. They built huge stone circles to mark the sun’s movements throughout the year, most famously at Stonehenge. Here’s a link to the less famous Ring of Brodgar stones where solstice sunrises are still commemorated.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit Stonehenge on the eve of summer solstice, here’s a film of last year’s all-night festivities that might discourage you, and make you think again! It looks to me like a Woodstock-y kind of fest where revelers stay up all night to party-hardy, and celebrate being at the right place at the right time. Plus, if there’s any significant cloud cover, the sunrise isn’t as dramatic as you might like. Maybe I’m being too hard on it. Tell us if you’ve ever visited Stonehenge in June!
I remain content to soak up that solstice energy remotely. Or better still, throw my own solstice party.
My friends Frances and Chris held a midsummer solstice party at their home many years ago that I remember quite fondly. Almost 30 of us secured tea light candles to discs of cork, decorated the discs with herbs and flowers and then set our lit candles, prayers, and wishes down a flowing backyard stream after dusk. It was just lovely!
Not in the mood for a full-fledged celebration? Just decorate the house in summer colors, put yellow flowers in a vase, or have the kids make a tableau to summer (with shells and greenery) on a table in a hallway. Waldorf suppliers sell summer dolls and accessories. Here are some summer poems from a Waldorf school website that you can read aloud together.
Summer solstice, also called Midsummer, is celebrated June 20th-24th the world over. Here are some Swedes dancing to celebrate the earth’s longest days. The best write-up I’ve found on solstice’s significance is here, at SchooloftheSeasons.com, where Waverly Fitzgerald outlines all you need to know to commemorate solstice deeply. Wikipedia.com has good descriptions and links too. And here’s a Beliefnet article on solstice you also might enjoy as you plan the rest of your blessed week.