Today (June 21, 2023) is the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice, the longest day of the year. A number of northern and central European cultures have customs to celebrate today, and it’s thought that these celebrations originally had to do with crop cycles, as a way to ensure healthy and bountiful harvests.
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Interested in celebrating the summer solstice? Here are five great locations and their traditions.
Sunrise at Stonehenge, England
This prehistoric monument is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most complex prehistoric monuments in the world. Though there are many mysteries surrounding the history of Stonehenge, we know it is and has been a place of Pagan rituals and worship.
If you love sunrises and sunsets, add this to your bucket list. Both sunset and sunrise tours pick up in London and attract many visitors. You can walk amongst the stones and take in the rituals. Be sure to wear comfortable, sturdy shoes.
Bonfire Lighting, Austria
These solstice celebrations take place throughout the Austrian mountains. In the city of Tirol, the fires begin as early as June 18th. The bonfires are set up in designs and are set ablaze as the sun sets. This tradition of lighting fires has gone on since the Middle Ages. Designs often include hearts, crosses, and the Tirolean eagle, but there’s also occasionally some more modern imagery, like Donald Duck.
If you’re looking to take in these beautiful bonfires, locals and travel guides suggest heading to Ehrwald. From there, find a restaurant with a view of the mountains or head to the basin as the fires start. If you want, you can even camp out in a designated campsite.
Indigenous Festival, Canada
The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival is almost a month-long experience on Algonquin territory. Whether you’re there to shop, eat, or learn, there are a number of opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture of the Algonquin people.
On the actual day (and night) of the solstice, there are interactive demonstrations and a drone show. This is a free event that offers family-friendly entertainment and education through music, dance, and workshops. The main festival takes place from June 21-25.
Midnight Sun Festival, Alaska
The people of Fairbanks, Alaska call the period between April 22nd and August 20th the “Midnight Sun Season,” because the sun shines for most of the day at this time of year. In fact, Fairbanks experiences approximately 70 days of non-stop sunshine during this time of year, and it all comes to a head at the summer solstice.
This year will be the 41st festival, and Fairbanks expects roughly 30,000 people to travel to the city for loads of live entertainment and food. If you’re not into big crowds, you could also sign up for the Midnight Sun Run on June 24th.
Whereas the Midnight Sun Festival is all about daylight, Astrofest in Croatia focuses on the shortest night of the year and celebrates that. During this festival, visitors see off the sun and stay up until it returns the next morning. Ancient people believed that during this time, worlds collided and supernatural creatures came to Earth for the night. The festival is a 40-year-long tradition.
The event is a huge night for those who are interested in astronomy and the history of myths and legends. Stargaze and dance to the music the same way ancient people of the Northern Hemisphere did.
Do you plan to celebrate the summer solstice? Tell us in the comments below.