The summer solstice has been observed for millennia and across cultures as a celebration of light, fertility and the abundance of the natural world. With full foliage overheard and sun in the forecast, midsummer presents the perfect opportunity to embrace the season.
Here are some activities that take advantage of this special time of year and foster a deeper connection to your environment. All the ideas are family friendly, so pick an activity and give it a try. You can even plan a full-weekend line-up to celebrate the sun, the land, and your community!
Rise with the sun
Because summer solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year, daylight has added significance around midsummer. In 2021, it falls on June 20th. Why not embrace this day of light by witnessing the land on which you live, under the first glow of the longest day? Waking before dawn to catch the first rays offers a peak into a different version of the landscape. The lighting, the sounds, the smells are all different in this early morning symphony. Taking a sunrise walk around your land or through your neighborhood brings fresh perspectives to a familiar setting.
Decorate with flowers
Gathering garlands and bouquets is an ancient tradition that feels just as festive and fun today. By mid June, gardens are erupting with colorful flora and wildflowers deck the roadsides. Embrace the colors of the season by decorating yourself and your home with blossoms. If you have some to spare, sharing flowers with friends and neighbors spreads the joyful spirit and adds an air of special-occasion.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to a pick-your-own berry patch! Here in the Northeast, mid-June heralds strawberry season. The crimson fruits straight-from-the-stem bear little resemblance to their grocery-store variety cousins so if you haven’t experienced the overwhelming deliciousness of local strawberries yourself, don’t wait any longer! Whether you consume your loot the same day, or have the self-restraint to transform your treasures into preserves or baked goods, you won’t regret it! And picking your own produce isn’t confined to June: July brings in blueberries, as well as peaches, apricots and raspberries. August adds apples to the mix. And don’t forget the less famous fruits like gooseberries (May-August), huckleberries (July to mid-August) and golden-berries (Septembers & October)!
Prepare a locally-sourced meal & eat it outside
Few things bring a more immediate connection to the land seasonally-specific food! In Sweden, where Midsummer is a nationally recognized holiday, traditional midsummer foods include strawberries, salmon, pickled herring, sour cream, dill potatoes, salmon, and assorted cheeses and breads. Here in the northeast United States asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, boysenberries, sugar snap peas, string beans, and micro-greens are in abundance. You can find them at roadside stands, local farmers’ markets or your own backyard. If you’re near the ocean, haddock, halibut, herring, periwinkles, oysters and lobster are among the bounty of seafoods that are “in season.” Whether a casual picnic for your family or a formal Diner en Blanc for your neighborhood, the act of preparing & sharing local food with people you care about will undoubtedly leave you feeling more in touch with your surroundings!
Host a bonfire
Bonfires play key roles in solstice celebrations around the globe, and they hold a familiar place in many people’s favorite summer memories. To book-end rising with the sun, extend the longest day of the year by hosting a celebratory bonfire to celebrate the spirit of summertime.You could plan a ritual to mark the occasion, or simply break out the guitars and marshmallows for some old-fashioned fun. You really can’t go wrong with this summertime staple!
Research a midsummer tradition from your heritage
As we approach the solstice, it’s a great time to dig deeper into the traditions of your family and ancestors. If you don’t have access to your own history, respectfully researching practices from other cultures is a great alternative. It’s beyond the scope of this blog post to provide a guide to midsummer celebrations worldwide, but there are lots of resources available. Start by asking friends or family members about their favorite summer celebrations––older folks in particular often have invaluable insights. Order a book on the subject through your local library or bookstore, and read it in your favorite outdoor spot. Podcasts are another great resource. And of course, you can find a plethora of information with a simple Google search. Take your exploration a step further by investigating similarities and differences between the botanical environments where traditional celebrations initially took place, and your local ecosystem. Dig into how the cultural significance of these celebrations has changed over time. Let your curiosity guide you-–who knows, you might find unexpected inspiration!
Photo by Mariah Hewines