Embracing the Sun: History & Traditions of the Summer Solstice!

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Things to Do

June 20th marks the summer solstice, that magical time of year when the sun hangs in the sky just a little longer, inviting us to bask in its warm embrace!

But what exactly is the summer solstice, and why have humans throughout history celebrated this celestial event with such enthusiasm? 

Grab your sunscreen and join us for a sunny stroll through the history of the summer solstice and some delightful ways to celebrate this year!

History of the Summer Solstice

Stonehenge at Sunset

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It occurs between June 20th and 22nd, depending on the year, and marks when the North Pole is tilted closest to the sun, giving us our maximum dose of daylight. 

This astronomical event has been celebrated for thousands of years, with various cultures honoring the sun and its life-giving energy.

Solstice celebrations and traditions vary greatly throughout history and cultures. You’ll also see it called by different names! In Northern Europe, the summer solstice is commonly referred to as Midsummer; in Wiccan culture, it’s referred to as Litha, and certain Christian churches recognize it as St. John’s Day in honor of the birth of John the Baptist.

Here are a few ways the summer solstice has been celebrated throughout history!

Ancient Times and Stonehenge 

It’s theorized that Neolithic humans may have first used the solstice to track their summer crops and plantings. 

One of the most famous solstice celebrations may have occurred at Stonehenge, that iconic circle of mysterious stones in England!

Built around 3000 BC, this prehistoric monument is aligned with the sunrise on the summer solstice, suggesting that it played a significant role in ancient solstice festivities. To this day, people gather at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise and revel in the power of the sun.

Paganism and Midsummer

Prior to Christianity, pagan groups (including Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic peoples) would welcome Midsummer with bonfires and “magic”!

These festivals involved lighting bonfires, dancing, and feasting. The bonfires were meant to banish demons and evil spirits, promote fertility, and guarantee a fruitful crop for the coming year.

This was also a significant time for the Vikings, who utilized Midsummer as an opportunity for negotiations and dispute resolution.

Ancient Romans and Vestalia

The ancient Romans celebrated Vestalia, a festival dedicated to Vesta, the goddess of hearth and home. 

During this time, Romans cleaned their homes and temples, decorated them with flowers, and prepared feasts to honor the goddess and the sun’s life-sustaining energy.

Native American Traditions

Many Native American tribes also held solstice celebrations. For instance, the Sioux performed the Sun Dance, a ceremony that included dancing, singing, and sometimes fasting, all to honor the sun and the earth.

Fun Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

bonfire at the beach

Whether you’re looking to honor ancient traditions or simply soak up the sun, here are some fun ways to celebrate the summer solstice this year!

  1. Watch the Sunrise: Channel your inner ancient druid and start your day by watching the sunrise. Find a cozy spot with a good view, bring a warm drink, and let the first light of the solstice fill you with warmth and positivity.
  2. Host a Bonfire: Gather friends and family, roast marshmallows, and share stories under the stars. The bonfire symbolizes the sun’s power and is a perfect centerpiece for solstice festivities.
  3. Nature Walk and Picnic: Embrace the spirit of nature with a solstice hike or a leisurely stroll through a local park. Pack a picnic filled with fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies, and enjoy a meal under the open sky.
  4. Create a Sun-Themed Craft: Get creative with sun-themed crafts. Make sun catchers, paint sunflowers, or create a sun wreath to hang on your door. It’s a great way to bring a bit of sunshine into your home.
  5. Yoga and Meditation: Connect with your inner self through yoga and meditation. Perform sun salutations to honor the sun, and meditate on the themes of light, warmth, and growth.
  6. Gardening: If you have a green thumb, spend some time in your garden. Plant new flowers or herbs, tend to your existing plants, and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of working with the earth.
  7. Cook a Solstice Feast: Celebrate with a special solstice meal. Use fresh, local ingredients (the Lake Chelan Farmers Market is on Thursdays!) to prepare a feast that reflects the abundance of summer. Think colorful salads, grilled vegetables, and a sweet, fruity dessert.
  8. Dance!: Just like the ancients, celebrate with music and dance. Create a summer solstice playlist and let loose in your living room or backyard. Dance to the rhythm of the season and feel the joy of summer!

The summer solstice is a wonderful reminder to slow down, soak up the sun, and celebrate the beauty and bounty of nature. 

Whether you’re honoring ancient traditions or creating new ones, let this day be a celebration of light, warmth, and joy!

Kick Off Your Summer With a Stay at The Lodge!

Sunrise by the pool

Nothing screams “Welcome, summer!” like a sun-soaked escape to Lake Chelan! 

The Lodge is located in the heart of the Village of Manson, within walking distance of beautiful Lake Chelan. We have plenty of BBQ stations, fire pits, and a private pool to make it a perfect summer getaway!Book online or give us a call today to book your summer stay in the Lake Chelan Valley. We look forward to hosting you!