With the longest day of the year approaching, many are itching to celebrate the official start of summer. While the standard summer kick-off barbecue is all fine and well, some spots on the map turn up the dials with major parades, ancient sunrise gatherings and even a little running around a maypole for the first day of summer. The longest day of the year is highlighted in a number of spots around the world with summer solstice festivals and events. People gather to celebrate when the sun is directly above the northern hemisphere, a pre-Christian ritual that has inspired several festivals. If you want to ring in the summer as they used to back in the day, here are several corners of the globe that embrace the official start of summer with a major festival.
Stockholm: As any Swede will tell you, Midsummer is one of the biggest days for celebrating each year. For this nation mostly covered in cold and darkness half of the year, the summer solstice events are extra special. Swedes can appreciate finally being able to enjoy the outdoors and the sun. While most of the country heads to island homes and country cottages for the Midsummer celebrations, you will find Stockholm still celebrating. One of the biggest summer solstice festivals in town is held at Skansen, the city’s open-air museum. The event features traditional celebrations along with the decorating of a flower-covered maypole. The city’s Kunstradgarden also acts as an open-air concert venue for the big day with plenty of live music and entertainment.
Stonehenge: In Wiltshire, England, thousands upon thousands gather to celebrate the summer solstice at one of the most famous ancient monuments in the world. Stonehenge has long been a place of worship. It is believed to have been an important religious site for people living here some 4,000 years ago. The ancient prehistoric site opens up to the public on the summer solstice, specifically for sunrise. May pagans, druids and just regular Joes gather to see the central Altar Stone align with the Heel Stone, the Slaughter Stone and the rising sun at this crucial moment.
Santa Barbara: If you can’t make it over the pond for the summer solstice, Santa Barbara has one of the largest festivals in the country to satisfy your summer solstice celebration cravings. The city comes alive for the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Festival, an event spanning the entire weekend. A parade of floats, giant puppets and costumed people takes place on the actual summer solstice. Mixed in with the parade are a number of events focused on music, food, and arts and crafts throughout the weekend. A tradition in Santa Barbara since 1974, the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Festival draws over 100,000 people each year.
Photo: Lisa Cook