The solstice has been celebrated for centuries. The National Trust of the United Kingdom has traced celebrations of the summer solstice back to the Neolithic era in Northern and Central European. Ancient Mayan and Arabic cultures are credited for creating the first calendars based on the revolutions of days via sunrises, sunsets, equinoxes, and solstices.
Today’s celebrations evolved from ancient beliefs mingled with current circumstances, with each honoring its own distinct culture, customs, and reasons to recognize this cosmic phenomenon. For an interesting vacation experience, visit the following famous sites or join celebrations held around the world that honor the summer solstice.
1. Caledon, Ontario
June 25, 2022, is the day the largest 24-hour mountain bike event in North America takes place at the Albion Hills Conservation Park. This beautiful reserve in Caledon, Ontario, offers 50 kilometers (just under 30 miles) of double-track and technical single-track bike trails for this exhilarating event.
Pro Tip: If that seems too strenuous, challenge your skills at your pace from sunrise to sunset on June 18. in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the Summer Solstice Challenge. This 15-hour bike, run, walk, or swim “personal challenge and not a race” event benefits Canadian nonprofits. More information can be found at www.raceroster.com.
2. Dragon Boat Races
The Chinese summer solstice refers to both an astronomical event and a traditional festival. In ancient times, the summer solstice involved earth worship and prayers for a good harvest season. China considers the summer solstice as the yin to the winter solstice yang, which is the longest day of winter. Celebrations, past and current, focus on the impending switch between the two.
A Dragon Boat Race is the most exciting place to be. Also known as the “Start of the Fifth Solar Month Festival,” the three-day holiday includes festivals highlighting races held throughout Mainland China. Dragon boats are human paddled watercraft often decorated with dragon heads. Races can be traced back 2,000 years.
The holiday has a heavy focus on rice dumplings served along the river shores during races. Contact a travel agency that specializes in China travel for future locations and dates.
3. The Sphinx
Sun worship was a significant element of Ancient Egyptian religions. The summer solstice was affiliated with the rise of the River Nile. This crucial annual spread of water reaching far beyond the Nile’s shores into the fields ensured a good crop that fed a nation.
The Sphinx is the perfect place to be on the summer solstice when the sun sets exactly between two of the Great Pyramids. No official celebration occurs; however, the spectacular sunset attracts tourists, astrologers, scientists, archeologists, and historians from around the world.
One of the largest solstice events today is at Stonehenge, where thousands of people gather to celebrate during the night. Exhausted by morning, they sit quietly to watch the sun climb over the hills, shining in perfect alignment through two massive stones.
This Neolithic stone circle appears to have been built purposely around the movement of the sun and is long believed to have been used as an ancient calendar or a gathering place for tribes to share goods and ideas and possibly for worship rituals. Archeologists recently reported that bones found at Stonehenge prove that tribes from as far as Scotland traveled to the famous gigantic rocks at least once a year, yet why is still debated.
Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site, is open to the public year-round with limited access to the stones. However, on the summer solstice, the site is open for two days so people can walk among the stones and touch them. Private tours are also available with professional travel companies based in London. A live stream of the event is offered by English Heritage for free at www.english-heritage.org.uk.
5. Fete De La Musique
Fete De La Musique, or Make Music Day, was established in 1982 as a national holiday during the summer solstice to encourage people to celebrate music in all its forms. Across the country, musicians are encouraged to offer free outdoor performances using a range of instruments playing a wide variety of genres.
The largest event is held in Paris at various places throughout the city. Always held on June 21, over 70 percent of Parisians have participated in a music event on this day at some point in their lives. Small villages may host smaller outdoor music festivals. A good place to learn more about this celebration is www.sortiraparis.com.
6. Prometheus Grove
The Prometheia Festival, a four-day event held every July is based on ancient spiritual beliefs concerning the sun. Held in the Litochoron village at the beautiful Prometheus Grove nestled at the foot of Mount Olympus, thousands of people wear ancient Greek attire and form a long parade through the village streets. The festival includes music, food, and a focus on outdoor fun, ending with a dramatic performance and large bonfire.
Note: Prometheia Festival plans for 2022 are on hold, but this is a good place to put on your bucket list.
Taking place where the sun never sets in Reykjavik is the Secret Solstice Midnight Sun Music Festival. This three-day event is set in stunning ice landscapes such as inside a glacier or a heated lagoon. The lineup includes major bands and musicians from around the world.
Unfortunately, the 2022 festival is canceled due to COVID; however, plans are to come back in 2023. More information can be found at www.musicfestivalwizard.com.
8. Emilia-Romagna, Modena, And Parma
World Lambrusco Day is observed on the exact summer solstice day each year and, of course, is all about wine. Historians believe that Lambrusco grapes were the very first to be turned into wine in Italy, with a long winemaking history dating back to the Roman period.
Many wine festivals occur in the Emilia-Romagna, Modena, and Parma regions known for Lambrusco grape vineyards. The best plan of action is to contact a travel agency for information about places hosting festivals.
In Norway, the celebration of Midsummer, also called St. John’s Eve, starts in early June. Historically, traditions concerned magic, witches with superpowers, and supernatural elements. People gathered herbs and flowers to make potions and built large fires to keep wicked witches away.
Today, Norwegians no longer chase witches away but continue to build bonfires. Big bonfires. Holding the world’s record for the tallest bonfire on Midsummer night: the village of Alesund on June 24, 2016, when the bonfire reached 155.5 feet. In the past few years, due to fire hazard fears and pollution, many places in Norway prohibit St. John’s Eve bonfires.
However, the tradition continues in Alesund during the Slinningsbålet Festival when a huge tower of wood is built on a small piece of land surrounded by the ocean. When the tower of fire topples, it falls into the ocean, preventing public harm. A video of the town building its annual fire tower can be seen above.
The Inti Raymi Festival, an Inca tradition celebrated by Andean people across the continent, holds elite spiritual meaning. Honoring the Inca sun god Inti, the event takes place every year on June 24 and is considered the winter solstice on that side of the globe. Considered the Inca solar new year, celebrations were once outlawed during Spanish colonization but have been revived in Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and Chile.
One of the largest is held in Cuzco, Peru where thousands gather to watch an elaborate procession starting at the Qorikancha, the Sun Temple. Parade participants wear brightly colored traditional clothing that represents important roles of the ancient Inca Queen, warriors, and sun maidens. Ending at the Sacsayhuaman Temple, the festival includes llamas, music, drums, and dancing.
In Barcelona, the 2022 Feast of Sant Joan will be held on June 23 and 24 and marks the birthdate of Saint John the Baptist. Known for its captivating atmosphere, the unrestrained festival unfolds in the city center with fires in the streets among open cafes that never close. Musicians compete with the consistent booms from fireworks throughout the night. A beautiful aspect of Barcelona is its lovely balconies and terraces, which will be crammed with partiers, often clad in elaborate costumes.
The three symbols of Sant Joan are fire, herbs, and water, meaning that a swim in the sea is an essential part of this national holiday. Temporary bars pop up along the beach creating a wild and crazy atmosphere.
If partying is not your style, wait until the morning when everyone is sleeping from too much merriment, and you will have the beach all to yourself.
12. Midsommerstang Festivals
The Scandinavian calendar and Midsommarstang festivities have deep roots in paganism, but today, holiday celebrators are more interested in food and love. Pickled herring, salmon, and potatoes are found at most festivals, along with flower-wreathed dancers circling maypoles.
The Midsummer day is connected to when love fills the air. Folklore claims that if unmarried girls place seven flowers under their pillows on midsummer, they’ll dream of their future husbands. Festival activities include unmarried girls tossing flower wreaths into a river expecting their future husbands to catch them downstream.
Many small villages host Midsommarstang festivals not posted on global resources, so the best avenue is to contact a Swedish travel agency for more information.
13. Fairbanks, Alaska
The Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks, the most northerly official baseball team on the planet, has played a baseball game without artificial lights on summer solstice since 1906. Known as the Midnight Sun Game, in 2022, the event is scheduled for July 27. Tickets can be purchased here.
Pro Tip: If yoga is more your style, head to New York City where a day-long event on Times Square attracts hundreds of yoga gurus.
More On The Summer Solstice
The Summer Solstice occurs once a year when the sun reaches the highest point on the most northern place on the planet.
The term “solstice” is derived from the Latin word sostitium, meaning “sun stands still,” a conclusion made long before Galileo convinced fellow scientists that the earth moved and not the sun. People believed the sun literally paused on its path around earth, resulting in supernatural events occurring on that day.
The precise time shifts each year due to the ever-moving earth’s rotation and is officially designated when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Cancer. In 2022, the precise time falls on Tuesday, June 21 at exactly 4:13 A.M. Central Time in the United States. Designated the longest day of the year because Earth receives the most sunlight on this day, the solstice is sometimes celebrated as the First Day of Summer or Midsummer.
For the rest of the year, Earth returns to wobbling in space around the sun and life goes back to normal — or at least until the winter solstice.
Want more? Consider these 8 Incredible Stone Circles To Celebrate Summer Solstice Around The World.