The longest day of the year, June 21 has arrived. Sometimes called the summer solstice by modern-day pagans, who want to embrace the ancient past, and sometimes called Midsummer, by the Scandinavians. No matter what you call the longest day of the year, it is marked by long-held traditions, spiritual mediations, and festive celebrations.
Traditionally, the summer solstice occurs after the crops were planted, but way before they needed to be harvested. This down time became the ideal opportunity for weddings, and celebrations, why June is the most popular month of the year for wedding. Over the years, the Midsummer festivities were traditionally held in countries like Great Britain, and in Scandinavia, when the summer was so short, and the days were so long.
On June 21, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. This means this is the longest day of the year. According to the Telegraph, summer solstice holds a “special power.”
“Midsummer’s eve was believed to be a time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest and when fairies were thought to be at their most powerful.”
In the Christian tradition, St. John’s Day is on June 24, and bonfires were lit to ward away evil spirits. For hundreds of years, the bonfire tradition continued in Britain and in Scandinavia.
Nowadays, in Britain, the summer solstice is often spent in spiritual mediation, at such Pagan monuments as Stonehenge, the ancient monument built for the longest day of the year. Other popular spots include the Avebury stone circle, which is only 20 miles from the famed Stonehenge. In addition, Cumbria has the Castlerigg Stone Circle. Many going to these sacred spots will wear flower garlands, seeking a spiritual experience, and embracing the magic of the day.
What is the summer solstice and why do people visit Stonehenge for it? https://t.co/OpqzKsKowt
— Metro (@MetroUK) June 21, 2017
In Sweden, Midsummer’s eve is celebrated the Friday closest to June 21. This begins the five-week holiday period through the month of July. Most businesses, and even some restaurants shut down for the summer holidays. Everyone heads out to the country to enjoy nature with their family, and take their lengthy summer vacation.
The day starts out with the community gathering in designated parks or fields. People pick flowers and place them on the maypole, or make flower garlands for girls. Females of all ages love to adorn their heads with the fragrant and colorful flower wreaths.
— The Local Sweden (@TheLocalSweden) June 21, 2017
Once the maypole is filled with flowers, it is placed in the center of the grounds, and people dance and sing around the maypole. Originally, Midsummer was meant to be a holiday for the young to meet and dance and even marry. But according to the Swedish Institute, in the past century, it has become the huge public holiday that it is today.
According to folklore, at night, a single woman must place seven different flowers under her pillow, before she goes to sleep. Then, their future husband will appear to them in their dream.
Midsummer is not just about flowers and maypoles! The Scandinavians will splash out a huge feast at lunch, including the traditional boiled potatoes with dill and sour cream, a variety of pickled herring, smoked and cured salmon, flatbread, deviled eggs with Swedish caviar, cheese, cold beer and plenty of elderberry schnapps. During the meal, there is more singing, toasting, occasionally dancing, and, of course, schnapps.
As Sweden is the land of the midnight sun, dinner could be very late. The modern tradition is grilling either pork or beef tenderloin, and serve it with pepper sauce, gratin potatoes, and for dessert, Swedish strawberries with whipped cream. Of course, everything is washed down with more flavored schnapps or cold beer.
Do you celebrate Midsummer or summer solstice? What are some of your traditions or customs?
[Featured Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]