Historical Background/Traditions

Summer solstice in Northern hemisphere has been culturally important for much civilization and now as well. From ancient times it is associated with a new beginning, a change, a new spirit, a new being and liveliness. As every living feels a energetic, so it is also associated with a positive change. Also summer solstice is related to fertility (in humans and crops) in many ancient cultures. Harvesting season starts after this day in many countries so it marks the first day of harvesting apart from summer. Fertility in humans is also associated with the longest day of the year. Many children are born after nine months to summer solstice. In many cultures the day was believed to have spiritual powers. The coming fortunes were predicted on the day. And calendars started from the day when the summer solstice sun rises high up in the sky. The traditions does not end up here, bonfires, gatherings, feasts, drinks, resolving issues among also took place on the first day of summer.

Traditions and celebrations in Greece

Summer solstice in ancient Greece was a day of new start, a day of with spiritual powers and a day of equality. Ancient calendars indicate that the New Year started from this day in Athens. The next moon to summer solstice was the start of Olympics games in Greece. Another important celebration took place in old Greece was the master slave equality. In the games and entertainment the master and slave equally participated as if both are equal.

The festival of harvest was also celebrated on summer solstice which is known as Kronia. The holiday was dedicated to “Coronus” the god of agriculture, who was the father of Zues. The ritual of Klidonas, also celebrated on the day. The magical power of the day was believed to bring good fortune for the unmarried women. Those women, who put their belongings in the water gathered from sea, will dream of their future husband.

Ancient Romans’ Summer solstice

The event was special for married women in ancient Rome.  Vestalia was celebrated in the honor of The goddess Vesta, the protector of married women and virgins. Married women made offerings to the goddess in order to protect and bless their families. Also they used to cook a special cake, with a special recipe and water from a specific spring was presented to Vesta.

Tradition of Stonehenge

Rising Sun during Summer Solstice
Rising Sun during Summer Solstice

The tradition of Stonehenge on the first day of astronomical summer in the northern hemisphere was and is of great importance. 5,000 years old monument in Wiltshire, England is evidence that pagans organized their calendars using summer solstice as reference point. The rising sun of June Solstice appears exactly above the main stone of the monument.  

Solar Term in Ancient China

Summer solstice is one of the solar terms that a year divided into. The 10th solar term starts on 21st June, which is the longest day of the year. These solar terms are created many centuries ago and celebrated and useful today as well.

History indicates that many dynasties celebrated the summer solstice holiday(s) like Qing and Song dynasty. Preparing special dishes according to weather has been a specialty of China. For example, on the occasion of summer solstice noodles are eaten in many north China. The season is hot and cold noodles are served in all restaurants. And on the occasion of wither solstice dumplings are eaten. In Yulin dog meat is eaten on the start of summer.

Another custom which is very famous in China is known as “Yin” force. Yin, the feminine force, the earth was celebrated on the day when the shadow is shortest.

Midsummer in Ancient Europe

Europe which today consists of France, Germany etc; in old times bonfires and Feast of Epona were the celebrations of Midsummer.  But after when Christianity prevailed in those areas the old rituals were observed during St. John’s day.

Summer solstice on poles is felt with great intensity and moving towards equator feeling of solstices diminishes. As on Arctic North Pole summer solstice has the longest days. Countries like Iceland, Alaska etc; are mostly inclined towards sun thus getting never ending day light. These countries celebrate the Sun light on the longest day of the year. Secret solstice festival and Midnight sun Baseball game at Alaska are the celebrate of sun light at midnight. These two festivals are nearly 100 years old.