The Summer Solstice: What it Means and How to Celebrate it
It’s the most wonderful time of the year (well, one of them, anyway)!
Here’s all you need to know (and some things you probably don’t) about Midsummer, what it is, and how to celebrate it.
What the heck is a solstice anyway?
A solstice happens twice a year, when the one of the Earth’s poles is at their maximum tilt– that’s Friday, June 21st. At precisely 4.54pm BST, if you were wondering.
For us in the northern hemisphere, we’re tilted towards the sun, and are gifted with the longest day of the year. This also means that in the southern hemisphere, Friday marks the winter solstice and shortest day, but that’s a whole other blog post (sorry southerner’s!). It all does a switcharoo around the 22nd December, and it’s our turn to celebrate midwinter.
Wait, so what’s an equinox?
When the sun is exactly over the equator, giving us a perfect balance of day and night. For the northern hemisphere, the spring equinox is around March 21st, and the autumn around September 22nd, signifying the change of the respective seasons.
Ok, so why is any of this important?
For many, the changing seasons reflects the cycle of life, death and rebirth, told throughout the Wheel of the Year. Specifically, the solstice symbolised the peak of Sun God, before his descent into the underworld to await his re-birth in Spring.
As such, the summer solstice - also celebrated as Midsummer, Litha, St. John’s Day/Eve - symbolises the sun at the height of its strength. The time when crops are flourishing and the rhythm of the earth is in full swing. It is seen as a time of abundance, fertility, and growth, before the autumn harvest, where the fruits of the summer’s labour are reaped.
That’s all well and good, but what can I do to celebrate the Summer Solstice?
Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Do I have to go to Stonehenge? I don't live anywhere near Stonehenge! Worry not, dear reader, there are loads of ways to celebrate the solstice, whatever your beliefs, traditions or path. Here are some ideas.
What’s a sun festival without a little fire, am I right? Ritual bonfires have been lit at the solstice for centuries, ritualistically symbolising and adding to the strength of the sun. All across Europe, Midsummer has been celebrated with torchlight parades. Contemporary celebrations include processions up the Danube in Austria, complete with fireworks and bonfires along the shoreline.
If a last minute trip to Austria isn’t an option, why not light a small bonfire (safely please!) if you have the space? Naked dancing optional. Just watch those embers. Roasted chestnuts are for Yule.
If you’re pushed for space (or those chestnuts put you off), you could always opt for a BBQ. It’s a great way to celebrate with non-witchy family and friends.
Celebrating the solstice in solitary? Light a candle and take the time to reflect on all the good things around you. What’s the year given you so far? What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Meditation and Yoga
Staying on the theme of self-reflection, the solstice is a great time to formulate some inner peace. Greeting the sunrise with a few sun salutations is a great way to re-establish your connection with its rhythm, not to mention get the blood pumping for the day ahead. Who knows, maybe you’ll form a habit out of it.
Everyone knows how useful mindfulness is these days, but it’s so hard to find the time. The solstice is a great excuse to take the time to just sit and be for a little while.
Plants are friends, so whether it’s a window box or a veg patch, the solstice is a great time to get down and dirty in the garden. Herbs and plants commonly associated with midsummer include: St John’s Wart, Sunflowers, Elder and Lavender.
Festivals and Gatherings
Celebrating any event with likeminded people is great for any occasion. It goes without saying that the major solstice festival takes place at Stonehenge. Free to enter, the stones and their inner circle are open to enjoy the sunrise. I was lucky enough to attend the solstice here in 2014, at a strangely poignant chapter of my life.
If visiting for spiritual purposes, my advice would be to seek out the pagans from the party-goers.
If you’re going for the party: beer cans don’t make good pillows. Oh and stop using the stones as a climbing frame. That ain’t cool.
If you're looking for something a little different, why not head on down to Cornwall and visit the 3 Wishes Fairy Festival. It's a super cool, family friendly festival over the solstice weekend with loads of fun activities and music.
Don’t forget, you don’t need to do anything big or fancy to celebrate the Summer Solstice. There are lots of smaller, more personal ways to mark and honour this time of year. Even decorating your space, or wearing solar symbols and summery shades is a good way to usher in the positive summer vibes. Orange topaz is one of our favourite crystals for this. Shop our ‘Apollo’ Topaz earring here and our ‘Artemis’ Topaz Necklace here.
I'll leave you with this photo of Stonehenge 2014,
Have a great Summer Solstice ☀️