Summer starts on June 20. This auspicious date is the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Summer Solstice is sometimes referred to as Midsummer or Midsummer’s Night, in neopagan traditions it’s known as Litha– a time to honor sun deities and celebrate the fertility of the earth.
This date and the pagan mythology surrounding it were also a big part of the inspiration for Shakespeare’s comedic play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Litha or Midsummer might be the perfect holiday to observe during a pandemic because many of the traditions involve being outside in nature. Here’s how you can celebrate the Summer Solstice this year:
Go Into the Wilds
Summer is the perfect time of year to get out into the woods or onto the beaches. Being in nature is one of the best stress relievers and an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness as you focus on the beauty of your surroundings. You could use the Solstice as an excuse to go to a national park or to hike in an area you’ve never been to before.
If it’s hot where you live, get out in the morning or take advantage of the long day to go out later in the evening when temperatures are starting to fall. Early and late hours can be some of the most beautiful times to be out in nature, and wildlife is more active during the hours around sunrise and sunset. Those are also great times to find a scenic spot and do some yoga (sun salutations were practically made for Midsummer.)
Water is associated with the Summer Solstice, so any wild place that can bring you into contact with water is especially appropriate. You can try boating or kayaking or just take a dip in your local swimming hole. If natural sources of water are hard to find in your area, a pool party could be a fun alternative.
Tend Your Garden
It doesn’t matter if you have a huge backyard garden or a pot of herbs on your windowsill, gardening is a great way to celebrate the Summer Solstice and to honor the fertility of the earth. The seeds you sowed in the spring are coming to fruition at this time of the year. It’s a great time to fertilize your late-summer producing vegetables, and harvest from your early spring plants.
If you are a beginning gardener, try planting some herbs like mint, thyme, or rosemary. They are easy to grow and can be used in your cooking almost immediately. Nothing says summer like fresh herbs.
Flower gardens are also at their best this time of the year, and decorating your home with them is a sweet-smelling way to celebrate summer. You could also try pressing flowers and using them in crafts. If you don’t have a flower garden of your own, find some wildflowers. June and July are the peak season for wildflowers in many areas, and some hikes will take you past fields of them. Just be sure to check on local restrictions before you gather wildflowers.
Cook a Midsummer Feast
Every season has its quintessential foods. At Midsummer, stone fruits like apricots and cherries are in season, and other summer favorites like watermelon are readily available. Try cooking a meal using all your favorite summer foods. If you have a garden, be sure to use as much of your fresh produce and herbs as possible. Vegetables and fruits can be grilled right along with your meat. Some fruits like pears can be incorporated into savory dishes (pear pizza is fantastic!).
Fire is one of the elements associated with the Litha, so cooking over it on a grill or making s’mores at your firepit after dinner are great ways to honor the holiday.
Do Some Summer Crafts
If you like to craft or have kids out of school and need an activity, there are a variety of Summer Solstice crafts that you can do to celebrate the season. You could make flower crowns, herbal candles, birdhouses, the list goes on.
In some European mythology and in neopagan religion, Midsummer is a time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thought to be thinner. This invites visitation from fairies and other magical creatures, (hence the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). A fun craft inspired by this mythology is the fairy house. The idea is to make a little house for the fairies to live in and place it in your yard (preferably not too close to your home, so you don’t invite the mischievous creatures in.)
You can make your house from scratch out of wood or any other material you like to work with or buy a premade birdhouse. Paint your house bright colors to attract the fairies and place it in your garden. This is a fun craft to do with kids (they’ll want to keep checking to see if they can see the fairies).
Brew up Some Summer Cheer
Honey is one of the foods most associated with summer, and mead is one of the best ways to enjoy it. It’s simple to make your own homemade batch of mead. There are many beginner recipes online, and the basic equipment is easy to come by. Or you can visit a local meadery and bring home a bottle or three of the “drink of the gods.”
If beer is more to your taste, try making a tasty honey beer known as Braggot. Braggot brings the best of beer and mead together and is brewed using both grains and honey. You can also add hops and spices to flavor it to your liking.
Love honey, but want to avoid the alcohol? You can make a non-alcoholic mead substitute using apple juice, honey, and water. Just mix one part apple juice with two parts honey and three parts water. Heat the mixture on the stove until well combined, then enjoy.