June 21st marks the first day of summer and a religious holiday for modern Pagans. Is it a coincidence that many secular festivities coincide with the longest day of the year? Is the solstice simply an excuse to party, or are we responding to a deeper primordial urge to celebrate? A sampling of solstice celebration, sacred and profane.

Solstice at Stonehenge
The axis of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England is aligned with the sunrise at the summer solstice, and Druids and other Pagans have gathered here at different points in history to celebrate the longest day of the year. Because of clashes with police in the 1980s, ceremonies were banned until 2001, when 14,500 people descended peacefully upon the ancient site.

LINK: Learn more about Alban Hefin, the Celtic solstice.

Pagan Parents
"My kids and I will be outside if at all possible, and I will make a fire, we will dance, and of course make smores! my children make pictures they feel are appropriate with chalk on our patio. and we usually hug the trees, and give them an offering (compost)..."
--Beliefnet member lunacrone

Coney Island Mermaid Parade
"The start of the summer in Brooklyn always brings the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, Brooklyn's own version of Mardi Gras featuring classic cars, dancing neptunes and mermaids and a whole lot of good clean debauchery!"

The Feast of St. John the Baptist (Catholic)
Solstice festivities in Europe were "Christianized" when the Church set June 24th as a holy day celebrating the birth of St. John the Baptist. Jesus referred to John as "A burning and shining light" and so traditional pagan customs of lighting bonfires were easily appropriated for the Christian holiday.

Norse Paganism (Asatru)
"In Icelandic folk beliefs this shortest night of the year is filled with magical powers. Alfs and Vettir come out in the night, and party and dance around the bonfire together with the people. Young women roll naked in the morning dew to become fertile. This probably conects with this day being a popular wedding day..."
--Beliefnet member Norseman

LINK: Read more about Norse holidays

Solstice Parade in Santa Barbara, California
"At high noon, on the Saturday following the longest day of the year the celebration explodes into a display of color, music, dance, art, and movement. The Parade has a wild variety of floats, giant puppets, and other creative means of conveyance. Over 1000 participants interact with the 100,000 spectators making them laugh, shout, clap and enjoy the amazing creativity on display..."

Season of Shawnodese (Native American)
"June 21st is Summer Solstice and we enter the Season of Shawnodese, the summer, the time of the Noon-day Sun. This is the time of the Coyote - the trickster aspect of Creator. During this season we are again presented with an opportunity to heal the doubt and fear blocking our heart's function. Growth, Trust, and Love make up the spirit path, the path of power of Shawnodese, from the outer circle of the Wheel of life to the inner circle where the power of life is focused in the elements of Creation..."

Pagan Spirit Gathering 2007
"The Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) is one of America's oldest and largest Nature Spirituality festivals. Since its inception in 1980, PSG has been bringing together hundreds of people from throughout the United States, plus other countries, to create community, celebrate Summer Solstice, and commune with Nature in a sacred environment. Sponsored by Circle Sanctuary.

Keep It Simple (Wicca)
"To me, nothing says Midsummer like swimming in a clear creek and eating watermelon."
--Beliefnet member HerbalWoman

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