While you might think to just fire up the grill and throw on some hot dogs and hamburgers to celebrate the longest day of the year, some parts of the Northern Hemisphere do things a little differently for the first day of summer. Celebrating the summer solstice boasts ancient roots and many places around the globe still honor the longest day of the year with set rituals and festivals, while others blend the old and the new in more modern events. From maypoles to bonfires to 24-hour concerts, these festivals around the world truly know how to ring in the summer solstice.
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, England
It comes as no surprise that one of the world’s great mysteries hosts one of the most traditional summer solstice festivals. In true pagan fashion, you can head to the prehistoric monument Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. While the origins of Stonehenge are quite foggy, you won’t be while joining the tens of thousands of revelers in watching the sun rise over these historic stones. You’ll find lots of chanting, drum beating, and dancing for the iconic event.
Secret Solstice Festival, Iceland
Music fans who love watching their favorite artists play live will want to make their way to Iceland for the summer solstice. In true Nordic fashion, the country honors the longest day of the year appropriately with its Secret Solstice Festival. Now in its fifth year, the festival brings loads of international and local musical acts, from big names to up and comers, to the capital of Reykjavik. The four-day event is unique in that the sun never actually sets, allowing the festival to rock through 24 hours a day.
Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration, California
You might not think the U.S. does much for the summer solstice until you head to Santa Barbara for the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration. Started in 1974 as a parade for a local artist, the event eventually joined up with the Summer Solstice Music Festival for a celebration that draws some 100,000 people. The parade brings more than 1,000 participants and plenty of floats, puppets, and costumes. The fun doesn’t end with the parade as the celebration of the longest day of the year continues to Alameda Park where there’s live music, food, and arts and crafts.
Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival, Canada
If you find yourself in Canada’s capital of Ottawa around the summer solstice, you won’t want to pass up a chance to experience the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival. The summer solstice just so happens to fall on National Aboriginal Day, and Ottawa has combined the two celebrations to recognize the contributions of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. You can expect aboriginal crafts, authentic food, plenty of traditional dancing and drumming, as well as the center of the event — the Pow Wow.
Midsummer at Skansen, Sweden
In Sweden, the summer solstice is a chance to dance around maypoles and bonfires and snack on the ever-delicious pickled herring. The Swedes truly celebrate the longest day of the year, as the long and dark winter is finally in the rearview mirror. If you want to experience one of the country’s summer solstice celebrations, you won’t have trouble finding one from small towns to bigger cities. However, the outdoor Skansen Museum in Stockholm hosts one of the most traditional midsummer festivals in the country. Midsummer at Skansen consists of lots of dancing and games, the raising of a maypole on midsummer’s eve, and plenty of local crafts and folk music. Skansen’s traditional take on Midsummer spans three days.
Do you have a favorite summer solstice celebration? Share your pick with us in the comments below.