For some cultures, the day has a mystical quality. Different groups celebrate flowery nature for the beginning of summerwhile others worship the sun. Vikings and Ancient Egyptians celebrated the summer solstice centuries ago. Today, it is marked in various ways in countries of the northern hemisphere.
For the pagans, it marks the beginning of the Litha Festival, a celebration of the powers of the sun. Followers of paganism wear special clothes and flower garlands, which are believed to ward off evil spiritshold special rituals and light bonfires.
In Wiltshire, England, pagans and other revelers greeted the early Tuesday sunrise at Stonehenge with flutes and wreaths.
The image of Queen Elizabeth II was projected onto Stonehenge. Cue the controversy.
The 5,000-year-old World Heritage Site is aligned with the movement of the sun, so “if you stood in the middle of the stone circle on a summer’s day, the sun would rise just to the left of the stone of the heel, a peripheral stone to the northeast of the monument”, according to English heritagewhich takes care of hundreds of monuments and ancient sites.
This year’s sunrise celebrations at Stonehenge – which were also broadcast live for those who weren’t able to make the trip – were very special, as it was the first time in two years that the ancient monument had lifted pandemic restrictions on public gatherings.
The crowd was diverse, according to Steven Morris, a Guardian reporter who was there. “A Druid in flowing robes played a waltz on bagpipes in the dappled shade of a tree as a band of pilgrims rested on the grass making wreaths of summer flowers.” Morris wrote of the scene. “Three Buddhist monks walked around while a group of men took off their T-shirts in the hot sun and drank lager, promising to keep partying until the sun went down and up. again.”
In France, the summer solstice coincides with a national music festival held every year since 1982. On June 21, revelers, musicians and DJs take to the streets and national monuments are transformed into concert halls. The holiday is celebrated in 120 countries, according to organizers.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the Fête de la Musique, launched by Jack Lang, French Minister of Culture, to democratize access to musical performances and encourage people to discover new musical genres. The Paris Philharmonic Orchestra play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the Louvre pyramid, while the Eiffel Tower will host a Latin American dance festival Bachata. The organizers say more than 18,000 gigs will take place around the world.
June 21 is also the International Yoga Daycelebrated in South Asia and around the world with mass yoga sessions and educational events on the benefits of the practice.
Sweden and its Nordic neighbors celebrate mid summary, or in the middle of summer, the weekend between June 19 and 26. In Sweden, it is a public holiday and the start of five weeks of summer holidays for children. They mark the occasion with bonfires, picnics, flower picking and maypole dancing.
Midsummer was traditionally a celebration of love and fertility. According to ancient folklore, those who put at least seven different flowers under their pillows in the middle of summer dreamed of their future partner. And the Swedish journalist Po Tidholm told Elle magazine in 2019 that Swedes tend to drink more during the holidays than they normally would – which can lead to unexpected romantic pairings.
“That, and the romantic feel of a beautiful, long night when the sun hardly ever sets, made March 22, nine months after the summer solstice, the day most babies were born in Sweden,” Tidholm told Elle. “That’s no longer true, however, since most Swedes are pragmatic enough to plan their pregnancies in order to deliver when it suits their work schedule.”