Image by James Wheeler, via Flickr
Happy Solstice, everyone!
If you hadn’t noticed, today is the longest day of the year. It’s time to celebrate!
Here in Canada, cold and darkness dogs us for far too long. But today we celebrate the warmth and light of summer.
I’ve been talking a lot this year about observing holidays — both natural and Christian — in order to become more conscious of the spiritual part of me. I’ve been making a conscious effort to be more aware of the sacred, and to infuse my daily and seasonal rhythms with reminders of who I am and Who I belong to. This has included the solar festivals (i.e. the equinoxes and solstices), at which time I reflect on the blessings of my Creator, and celebrate his creativity and lavish generosity.
So. Back to the solstice.
I did a bit of research to get me started. Turns out the word “solstice” comes from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still): on the solstice, the sun seems to stand still for a moment before beginning its long descent into sunset.
I love how Magpie Girl explains the solstice, in her e-book Celebrate the Light: Magpie Girl’s Guide to Summer Solstice:
Unlike the Equinoxes – which are all about sharing nicely between day and night — the Solstices are shameless in their extravagance. There is no talk of balance on the Winter and Summer Solstices! Loads of Dark, or buckets of Light. There is no in between.
On the Winter Solstice the Darkness lays long upon the earth. We light wreaths and make feasts in the hope that we can cajole Mother Nature into giving us back the Light. When the scales finally tip and Light returns at the Summer Solstice, we run outdoors and dance like mad with relief! When we reach the longest day of the year, joy overtakes us and we spin around with our arms stretched-wide to soak up every last ray of sunlight! (It’s a good day for whimsy.)
I totally get that feeling of relief when it comes to summer, and I love the idea of devoting a day to whimsy. (We Christians have a hard time embracing whimsy, don’t we?)
As Magpie Girl explains, summer is a good time to celebrate
- clarity and light.
- fertility and abundance.
- joy and abandon.
Around the world and across cultures, people have history of feasts and fertility rights in connection with the longest day of the year. Common symbols include the sun (obviously), fire, flowers, herbs, wreaths and circles.
Looking at it from a Christian angle, I embrace the solstice as a time to celebrate God’s extravagance, and to express gratitude for spiritual joy and clarity.
As Fiona put it, “I’m going to celebrate the light that shines in the darkness, the light that darkness has not overcome.”
Celebrating the Solstice
I also gained a deeper understanding of the Solstice, and found some ideas and inspiration, from this post from School of the Seasons:
This is a traditional time for a bonfire which is lit as the sun sets.
Flowers and May Day wreaths are tossed into the fire. They burn and die just as the heat of the summer consumes the spring and brings us closer to the decline of autumn and the death of vegetation in winter. As we begin the decline, it’s important to remember that the wheel of the year is a circle. The spring will come again. The sun will triumph over the darkness again. Thus, the circle is an important symbol. Wreaths are hung on doors.
Midsummer also has overlap with the Christian Year. According to School of the Seasons:
Midsummer’s Eve is also called St John’s Eve. The official version says that St John was assigned this feast because he was born six months before Christ (who gets the other great solar festival, the winter solstice)…
Other midsummer symbols also accumulate around St John. He’s the patron of shepherds and beekeepers. This is a time to acknowledge those wild things which man culls but cannot tame, like the sheep and bees. The full moon which occurs in June is sometimes called the Mead Moon. The hives are full of honey. In ancient times, the honey was fermented and made into mead.
This is a traditional time for honoring water, perhaps because it plays such a vital role in maintaining life while the sun is blazing overhead. St John baptized with water while Christ baptizes with fire and the Holy Spirit.
Don’t you just love all how all that beautiful symbolism intertwines?
Ways to Celebrate
Combing the internet for some inspiration, I found some fun, easy ideas for observing the Summer Solstice.
- decorate your house (doorway, windows, table) with images of the sun
- Put together a wreath covered in green grasses, flowers, and fresh herbs for your front door
- pick summer flowers and take them inside
- Eat seasonal foods (greens and strawberries, anyone?) outside
- Light at bonfire as the sun goes down
As for us, this year we’ve kept it simple. (Especially since, you know, I only got to planning it this morning . . .)
- I intertwined some green grape vines into an old wreath for my front door.
- I harvested some fresh lavender (herbs are supposed to be their most potent at midsummer), and hung that from my wreath.
- I cut out some suns from construction and tissue paper and stuck them on my front door.
- Tonight, we’ll take our dinner outdoors and feast on a roasted chicken with a side of strawberry-spinach salad, fresh from my parents’ garden.
- And in the evening, hopefully we’ll light a bonfire and toss in some fresh lavender, remembering that the seasons go round and round, summer consuming spring, summer fading into fall and finally winter; but the sun prevails, and darkness will not overcome it.
- Summer Solstice Traditions from Rhythm of the Home (includes making clay suns, sun crowns, and ideas for summer solstice foods)
- A Solstice Blessing from Magpie Girl
What do you think of celebrating solar festivals as a Christian? Have you ever celebrated the summer solstice? Any ideas to share?