Celebrating Summer In December
For half of the planet, the midwinter trappings associated with the popular celebration of Christmas are out of synch with what is happening outdoors. Thanks to all that dashing through the snow in one-horse open sleighs, what is the summer solstice for 32 countries on five continents has often been left out in the cold.
This isn’t a problem for people who are happy to celebrate Christmas, or for those who do not celebrate anything at that time of year. People who are new to following a Pagan, Wiccan, or other earth-based spiritual path, often are left wondering what to do.
If you are looking for a few ideas for celebrating the summer solstice on 21/22 December, keep reading! I’m going to share a few snippets of information about historical celebrations, and then I’m going to let you in on a few of the ways in which I celebrate the day at home.
Summer’s Traditional Midpoint
Without spending too much time on the astronomy of the solstice, for southern hemisphere countries, it is the day on which the sun is directly above the tropic of Capricorn. It is the day on which we get the most daylight, which is why it is the longest day and shortest night.
Historical Solstice Celebrations
From bonfires to racehorses galloping through the town streets, possibly even including horses whose names have appeared on the best horse betting sites, the longest day inspires humans to do something.
For many ancient Greeks, the longest day of the year was the sign that there was one month to go until the Olympics began. The ancient Romans celebrated Vesta and the Penates between 7 and 15 June. They were spirits of the home, and Vesta was represented by the hearth fire.
Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic tribes in Europe celebrated the day by lighting bonfires, and by playing games and feasting. The fires, in which herbs such as lavender and St John’s wort were burned, were believed to protect cattle, crops, and people from disease.
In Menorca, horses gallop through the city streets a few days after the solstice, in celebration of the place’s patron saint, St Joan.
The summer solstice is still celebrated by the Sioux and other North American first nations. The Sioux sun dance is one of the most famous of those observances.
Celebrate Midsummer At Home
December is a busy month. There are end of year events, Christmas parties, family gatherings, and all sorts of festive excursions to enjoy. As much as I love pageantry, the rhythm, and other pros of a ritual with a circle casting and elemental invocations and all the rest of it, I never seem to get it right around 21 and 22 December.
This means my summer solstice celebrations need to be simple, inexpensive, and effective and don’t require a heist to carry out. As far as decorations go, I follow the old custom of making decorations with lush greenery and a bounty of flowers from my garden.
On my table, I place a wreath of summer greenery and flowers on the table, and I put a white or gold candle anointed with lavender oil in the wreath’s centre. I light the candle at mealtimes after saying a short prayer in which I give thanks for the light and warmth of the sun and of love, and I ask that the light of wisdom illuminates our world. If I do this on the evening before the solstice, my friends, family and I then spend a few moments in silent reflection before we enjoy a feast.
My favourite way to celebrate the solstice on the day, weather permitting, is by lighting a fire. We have a brick and concrete structure built for the purpose. First, I make sure the shelf is clean. I then sprinkle it with water in which lavender, St John’s wort, and other summery herbs were steeped in the sunlight.
Next, I pack a few split thorn wood logs. After asking earth, air, fire, and water to bring their energies to the place, I light the fire with a similar invocation to what I say when lighting the wreath candle. My friends and I take turns making a wish or making a gratitude offering by sprinkling lavender blossoms and other summer herbs onto the flames. When the herbs have all burned away, we pass a cup of wine or punch around.
Each of us toasts the sun, sprinkles some liquid on the flames, takes a sip, and then passes it on. If there is any wine left in the cup, it either gets poured onto the flames or onto the earth. We then have a barbeque and relax in the sunshine, grateful that we have seen another summer solstice.
I hope they will inspire you to mark the longest day of the year in a way that is creative, joyful, and fulfilling.