Summer is about to kick into high gear: This Monday marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the official start of the season. With almost 16 hours of sunlight in one day, it's the ultimate time to celebrate summer!
Ringing in the season of long, languid days is actually an ancient tradition. In the Northern Europe, where light is scarce much of the year, the solstice was traditionally a time for Pagan cultures to honor the sun and all the joyous energy it brings (in Sweden, the holiday even rivals Christmas in its festivities!).
Keep the centuries of summer solstice traditions going with these solstice party inspirations!
Tradition: Flower garlands
What it Symbolizes: In Sweden, the summer solstice marks Midsummer (the "mid" is a remnant from a time when the calendar only had two seasons, summer and winter, meaning the solstice then occurred in the middle of summer) when daylight is at its peak and gardens are in full bloom. By wearing flowers, it was thought that partiers could harness nature's vitality for the year to come. Decorating homes with wreaths and wearing garlands is still common across Sweden and in the Ukrainian celebration of Kupala. (You also might recognize the holiday from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a play which captures the magic, mystery, and festivities of the solstice).
Recreate It: It's most common to use flowers that are local to your area. Use a variety of fresh wildflowers, like daisies and coneflowers, and wrap them around a floral wire for a festive crown.
Tradition: Maypole dances
What it Symbolizes: For Sweden's Midsummer, people of all ages gather around a maypole—decorated in greenery and ribbons—singing "Små Grodorna" ("The Little Frogs") and hopping around the pole like frogs (yes, you read that right). Some scholars also speculate that the maypole symbolizes the world's axis, further connecting the ceremony to the earth.
Recreate It: We're guessing you don't have an 16-foot-tall maypole lying around, but you can find a much smaller-scale version at any craft store and decorate it with ribbons and local plants.
Tradition: Brewing sun tea
What it Symbolizes: Harvesting the energy of the sun is a major part of the Pagan summer solstice in Celtic regions. Sun tea, a herb drink brewed by the light of day, is an important way to celebrate the prosperous season and quite literally take in the sun.
Recreate It: Use black, herbal, or green tea bags, and/or fresh herbs and edible flowers like mint, chamomile, lavender, violet, and rose. Arrange the ingredients in a jar, add fresh water, and seal it shut. After four or five hours in the sun, strain the herbs and it'll be ready to drink!
What it Symbolizes: During solstice festivities in Celtic Pagan cultures, it's traditional to jump over a fire with your partner to ensure good health and fertility. It's also common to burn herbs like St. John's wort or mugwort: these are believed to bring prosperity and romance, and said to be more powerful on the solstice.
Recreate It: Head to the beach or a campsite with fire pits and make your own bonfire. Or, for a more low-key flame, use candles—just don't forget to put out fires at the end of the night!