Worldwide Celebrations Light Up the Summer Solstice

Morgan Hughes Author PIC
by Morgan Hughes

June 20, 2019

5 minute read

You thought Monday’s felt long? The longest day of the year is upon us. We’ve been enjoying more daylight each day since December, and now this Friday’s Summer Solstice marks the most sunshine we’ll get in the northern hemisphere all year.

To hyperbolize, we’re in the dark after this. So, we might as well celebrate. Take a look at the summer solstice celebrations around the world.


Each year, troves of people gather in Wiltshire, England, to a notorious 5,000-year-old monument: Stonehenge.

The purpose of the structure is riddled with mystery. Some believe it was built to host religious ceremonies. Others say it was used to study the sun and moon.

Ancient ancestors of the region believed the sun and moon held a special power over their lives, and researchers believe they held special ceremonies at Stonehenge on the summer and winter solstices.

Today, thousands gather at the monument to watch the sun rise on the longest day of the year. As the sun appears behind the Heel Stone, which marks the entrance of Stonehenge, crowds cheer and applaud for the start of summer.

Some of its visitors take in the power of the occasion through yoga and respective religious rituals. Others come strewn with flower crowns and necklaces, dressed in bright colors.

 Sweden midsummer


The solstice is considered a magical and spiritual night in Sweden. Swedes are also very in tune with nature and the seasons. They experience a relatively short summer season, so they mark the solstice – which they call Midsummer – with grand celebrations.

On Midsummer Eve, many Swedes begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths. The wreaths will bedeck the ritualistic maypole. On the day of Midsummer, the maypole is erected and children ring-dance around the flowered pole.

Traditionally, Swedes will indulge in a menu of pickled herring, salmon, and potatoes. Many will accompany the meal with beer and Schnapps, and top it off with a dessert of the first strawberries of the summer and whipped cream. Sprinkled with singing and revelry, Midsummer is a huge ordeal for Swedes.

Once festivities have wrapped up, girls and young women are encouraged to go flower-picking on the way home. Legend has it that if they pick seven different species of flowers and lay them under their pillows, they will dream about their future husbands.

 Austria midsummer bonfire


On the shortest night in the western Austrian state of Tyrol, the mountains flicker with bonfires marking the start of summer.

The tradition is said to date all the way back to the Middle Ages. Local groups climb the mountains each year to build fires that illuminate the mountains. Some create symbols with the fires, such as a cross or a sacred heart.

Innsbruck hosts a midsummer celebration full of excitement. As bright as the Nordkette Mountains are lit, musical entertainment and food highlight the night.

 Coca de Sant Joan


The start of summer, especially in Barcelona, is marked with the explosive celebrations of the Feast of Sant Joan.

The sun is seen as a symbol of fertility and wealth to many in Spain. Many believe that on the day the sun is at its highest point before dropping, it must be given strength to provide well-being to Spaniards.

Described in Catalan as the “Nit del Foc,” or “Night of Fire,” Spaniards light up the night with bonfires and fireworks. It is also tradition – a dangerous one, nonetheless – to jump over the fire during the celebration.

An iconic food for the Feast of Sant Joan is called the “coca.” It is a pastry typical of Catalan countries, whether it is sweet or savory. The coca de Sant Joan is typical of the night, a popular sweet coca often decorated with candied fruits and pine nuts.

 Dragon Boat festival


Dragons breathe life into summer in China. Chinese mythology suggests that dragons control rivers and rainfall, especially at the height of summer.

Paying homeage to the mythical beasts, the Dragon Boat Festival happens each year around the time of the summer solstice. The boats range from 40 to 100 feet in length, ornately decorated with a dragon head and tail on either end of the boat. It is rowed by up to 80 people, and the best of the best participate in a sort of capture-the-flag” race.

Some believe that the holiday also originates from the poet and statesman Qu Yuan, who is said to have drowned himself after being exiled from the kingdom in the third century BCE.

During the festival, the Chinese will eat zongzi, or rice dumplings. Local people may carry on the tradition of throwing the sacrificial cooked rice into the river for Qu Yuan. People also drink realgar wine, believed to prevent disease and ward off evil.

In other superstitions, it is also said that if someone can balance a raw egg on its end at exactly noon on the holiday, the rest of the year will be lucky.


Whether you celebrate the longest day and shortest night of the year with a bonfire, honoring the spirituality of the sun, long hours of revelry, or simply a relaxing evening at home… summer is officially here.

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