The summer solstice is the longest day of the year when the sun is at its highest point in the sky and stays out far into the night. For those in the northern hemisphere, this takes place on June 20th, while those in the southern hemisphere will get to celebrate their summer solstice on December 21st.
Daylight increases significantly the closer you get to the poles, with cities in Alaska, northern Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia lucky enough to celebrate almost an entire day of light.
The summer solstice always creeps up on me. Where I live, June is still a relatively cool and pleasant month, and the lakes are still not warm enough to enjoy. It’s not until July or August that the world starts to warm up, and summer hits full swing. This phenomenon is known as seasonal lag, a one to two month lag in temperature behind the trajectory of the sun. (This is also why January and February are the most frigid and awful weather months!)
However, the summer solstice marks the beginning of summer and is a time of celebration! It also coincides with the Pagan festival, Litha. Regardless of which one you’re celebrating, this list of ideas is a good place to start!
Need some ideas for how to celebrate the longest day of the year?
Watch the sunrise.
Either wake up early on June 20th to watch the sun come up (see the point below), or stay up all night to watch it rise on June 21st!
Watch the solstice live from Stonehenge!
If you’re waking up early to watch the summer solstice sunrise, you may want to watch the live feed of the sunrise over Stonehenge’s Heel Stone from the English Heritage site. A remnant of historical druids, Stonehenge’s heel stone aligns perfectly with the sunrise on the summer solstice.
Make sun tea.
Set your tea out early in the day so that it can get to cooking. Sun tea has always been a favorite of our family, and the solstice is a wonderful day to make some magical tea while you’re at it!
Charge crystals in the sun
When you put your sun tea out, put your crystals out too! Just be sure that they’re sun-safe crystals and won’t get bleached out by the intense sunbeams.
Bake a honey cake!
With flowers, bees, and honey production all at their peak on the solstice, it’s a great day to make a honey cake. It’s even better if you’re able to source local honey for your cake. We’re lucky to have an apiary only a few miles away from our home, and it’s fun to know that the bees that live there might be eating from our flowers here!
Go strawberry picking.
Strawberries are in full swing! Head out early in the morning before it gets too hot, and enjoy gathering fruits from a U-Pick farm near you. This is also a wonderful task to do with kids since it helps them connect with their food sources more intimately.
Lay in the sunshine.
It only makes sense to absorb all the sun you can get on the longest day of the year!
Bonus points if you absorb all that sunshine naaaaaaaaked. Get some sunbeams on your bits!
Swim in the lake, ocean, or swimming pool.
If the water is warm enough where you are, why not take a dip? The solstice is a great time to practice water magic, using the sand and water as mediums to cast love spells and other intensions. It’s also relaxing to comb the beach for shells or sea glass!
Head to the woods and enjoy nature, especially oak trees.
If you’re nowhere near a body of water, try exploring the forest near you. Oak trees and the mistletoe that often grows in them are especially sacred on summer solstice days. Maybe pack a picnic and relax underneath one before continuing your hike.
Decorate with oak leaves.
If you happen to find an oak tree, try crafting a crown of oak leaves and wearing it throughout the day. Hold onto it to burn on your Yule campfire.
Make clover garlands.
If there’s no oak tree near you, gather your common clover or daisies growing in the grass. If you have both oak and flowers, men traditionally make oak crowns, and women make flower crowns. 🙂
Go wildcrafting or foraging.
The elder is in bloom here, and I’ve already been out foraging for it! This is a wonderful time of year to forage, with many plants either ready to harvest or blooming (which makes them easy to identify). Even if you’re not into gathering and foraging, it is a fun practice in observation to find a local plant guide and learn the names of your local flora.
With the turning of the year, this is an especially auspicious day to cleans your space. Many people partake in smoke cleansing, though you could also do a salt or water cleansing. If you’re really on top of it, do the actual physical cleaning of your space the day before the solstice: tidying up the room, sweeping, washing windows, and flipping your mattress. When the solstice hits, you’ll be completely ready for the next half of the year.
Move your body, and use your voice.
Mother Earth is full of life and energy right now! Be a part of it by using your body and voice through dancing, singing, and playing instruments. Extend the expression of energetic life throughout your body.
Float paper or leaf boats down the river with messages of luck or love on them.
One of the sweetest solstice traditions and similar to Pooh Sticks. Simply create boats out of biodegradable materials and float them down a local creek or river.
Leave an offering for fae or faeries.
Midsommar is a special day for faeries. If you believe in these magical creatures, why not leave them a little something as they go about their day?
Create an ice bowl.
Such a beautiful project! This can be used to create a boat for your wishes, an offering bowl for the fae, or a serving bowl for your cookouts.
Place a bowl inside of a slightly larger bowl and fill the space between them with water and flowers. Freeze. After slightly thawing, remove the two bowls from the ice bowl. Done. Beautiful. Go surprise your friends with it.
Host a cookout or potluck dinner.
Have your friends and family members over for a cookout or potluck dinner. If you’re in an area that is still fighting COVID, practice social distancing or host a cookout for only your household. Just because everyone can’t be there doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy the summer sun!
Make a protective amulet, or charge your charms over the bonfire.
Using herbs and plants that are growing right now, make yourself a little amulet or trinket full of summer solstice energy for the entire year. (There are so many plants and associations, so there’s no wrong combination here! No need to search far or make it too complicated either. Look through your yard, look up the meanings of the plants you find, and decide if they are something that you want to gather! Honeysuckle, lily, elderflower, oak, mugwort, basil, verbena, roses, yarrow, and clover are all common ones that I know are living in my yard right now.)
Celebrate with sparklers or fireworks.
Why not? All I have to say about that.
And then set them free, obviously!
This solstice coincides with the New Moon in Cancer as well as a solar eclipse! Why not stay up late on the evening of the solstice to do a new moon ritual?
Burn the witch! (Or have a bonfire.)
Traditionally, the burning of the witch was a very solemn Danish event in remembrance of persecuted women (“witches”) in the 16th and 17th century Denmark. Similar to Guy Fawke’s Day in the UK, the Midsommar event usually involves a witch-shaped effigy that is burnt on a bonfire.
Today the event has become a jovial gathering. Some people may interpret this as an attack on feminism or disrespectful toward the women killed. That being said…
A few years ago, I got to participate in this tradition with a community of Danes. We did not burn a witch effigy. We shared a community dinner in which everyone brought seasonal dishes. Afterward, we created flower mandalas in the grass, sat around a huge bonfire and roasted smores, played drums, sang songs, and watched fire dancers with amazement. After midnight, some of us trickled off to watch the stars. Word of mouth from these Danes was that their community no longer burned the witch effigies in Denmark either. It had simply transformed into a late-night celebration where they tended the bonfire late into the night to burn any darkness that remained on the summer solstice.