Celebrating the Summer Solstice
Yesterday we probably bombarded you with social media pictures of our experience at the Yoga Fest on the Monumental Circle in Indianapolis as it was not only the International Day of Yoga, but also the Summer Solstice and in our family, we celebrate the beauty of nature on these big days. Jeremy, our practice director, was born on the Summer Solstice, as was one of my sons, and my birthday is on the Winter Solstice. We are so much alike but also so very different, a great balance just as summer and winter, or the sun and the moon, so celebrating these two events has a number of meanings for us. We get to celebrate each other, but also give thanks to Mother Earth and all that we are greatly blessed with in our lifetime here.
The summer solstice marks the first official day of summer, on the longest day of the year. Throughout history, humans across cultures, continents, and religions have celebrated the winter and summer solstices, as well as the spring and autumn equinoxes. These four celestial events mark the beginning and ending of cycles - and encourage us to connect with the rhythm of nature and flow with the changing energy of the seasons.
Solstice means the "standing of the sun" from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (the stand still). Twice a year, in the winter and the summer, the sun gives the illusion of standing still in the sky, when viewing from earth. It peaks at the highest point in the summer and the lowest point in the winter. After the summer solstice, the sun begins its descent - the days become shorter and the nights longer - in the perpetual cycle of the seasons.
In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice takes its northerly excursion anytime between June 19th to the 23rd depending on the Earth's alignment with the sun. The solstice is celebrated under many names, such as the first day of summer, Midsummer's Eve, St John's Eve or it may be celebrated as a day of fertility or the happiest day of the year.
At both times of the year, the solstice is a celebration of light, life, and the completion (winter) or beginning (summer) of a new cycle - predating Christian traditions. These astrological events correspond with our own natural rhythm of nature. The winter solstice marks the return of light from the "longest night" of winter - and the summer solstice marks the culmination of light and the most energetic time of the year.
There are many traditions, rituals, and ceremonies to celebrate, honor, and harness the energy of the sun. Historically, this helped people connect deeply with nature and better understand the influence the world around us has on the world within us. Just as nature moves through seasons of spring and autumn, we also flow with the cycles of life. Our spiritual journey offers us peaks and valleys that we must navigate and so for me, when I am hiking and thinking on my wants and needs, I am reminded that the trees turn in and shed themselves in the fall with complete faith that they will be available to show their beauty again next spring. Those seasons require a balance though if they are to really offer their best, and this reminds me that lazy days are just as important to my own success as my own productive days and giving to myself is just as vital as meeting the needs of others, and it isn't just a rare event, but a scheduled season.
Connecting to nature in this ways helps us be inspired by the sun's ebb and flow, learning to work with our own lives in this way, rather than resisting these changes or trying to ignore our own needs for balance. The only real constant we have is change; let's embrace it. We can sink deep roots into the earth, really grounding ourselves in healthy lifestyle behaviors and then we don't bend and snap as easily when the wind blows or when it's time to let our leaves fall.
The solstice helps us honor our own paths and gives us time to really reflect on what we've accomplished and consider what we may want to accomplish into the future. The summer solstice is a time of heightened energy as we experience the longest day of the year - filling us up with more sunlight than normal.
Honoring the summer solstice with ceremony, ritual, or yoga can help us energize and harness the palpable energy of the sun. This creates intimacy with nature that has been all but lost in the modern world. And while many rituals and traditions honoring the changing of the seasons have been lost in time, we can still create our own personal magic during these times.
Celebrating the Summer Solstice
The intentional and devotional movement of yoga is a wonderful way to honor, celebrate, and connect with the energy of the summer solstice. It offers us opportunity to set an intention at the beginning of our practice and helps us connect more deeply with the heat of the summer and light of the sun so we can manifest or cultivate whatever it is that we want more of in our lives.
The Indy Yoga Movement hosts the largest yoga event of the year on the summer solstice, celebrating at the Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis each year. New York City closes off Times Square to do yoga for the summer solstice as well. We celebrated with them yesterday; hence all the pictures on our social media. Here are a few news clips from our activities yesterday, WISHTV, WTHR, and WRTV. I have also celebrated by doing 108 sun salutations, better done at dawn on the morning of the summer solstice, facing east.
Bonfires are traditional celebrations in many religions as fire and the sun's energy are synergetic, and this allows for dancing, story telling, sharing summer foods, and relaxing to appreciate the gorgeous sunset. Flower crowns are also quite popular, which I remember doing as a child at school in Holland. The picture above offers an example. Making flower wreaths, crowns, bouquets, or even tending to your garden renews grows, supports intentions for renewal, and celebrates all that the sun feeds and nourishes. Maybe meditate, or walk in nature, thinking on all the good you have in your life, welcome gratitude. Join a drum circle or music festival. Get naked!
Interestingly, in Fairbanks, Alaska, only 140 miles south of the Arctic Circle, they focus on the midnight sun by having a twelve-hour street fair and watching live music, but at midnight, they have a sun baseball game, with the first pitch at 10pm. The game goes right through midnight because the sun never truly sets. Seattle has a massive festival as well, in the Fremont neighborhood, with a craft market, live music, food and drinks in the gardens, and a parade.
Ottawa, Ontario in Canada celebrates the summer solstice with an indigenous festival, which focuses on summer solstice traditions from the First Nations people. Food, drinks, family activities, and a traditional powwow is the agenda - but gorgeous!
Reykjavik, Iceland has a not-so-secret solstice festival each year as does Stockholm, Sweden, called Midwommar. They decorate Maypoles in Sweden, which I participated in as a young child in elementary school in Holland. Such fun! We danced and made the flower crowns or decorated hats. Finland offers the Juhannus festival in Helsinki when many people marry so they also cast fertility or love spells around this time. Juhannus is a national holiday so families gather together to barbecue, light bonfires, fish and boat, soak in saunas... relax.
Austria has a firework celebration and massive bonfires atop many mountains which goes back to the Middle Ages, which remain lit as the sky goes dark on the longest day of the year. These mountaintops become beacons and cast a mystical effect across the entire region. Kuldiga, Latvia hosts the Jani festival which also dates back to the Middle Ages where bonfires are made and floral wreaths, and when the people take nature walks, sing and dance, drink beer and eat Jani cheese. They focus on the celebration of nature and its changing seasons. St. Petersburg, Russia has long celebrated the solstice with huge ballet and opera performances, carnivals, and even famous acts such as the Rolling Stones and Sir Paul McCartney.
Personal Celebration or Honoring the Summer Solstice
Ideas for honoring the summer solstice on a more personal level is again, a bit more specific to setting intentions. Consider waking up early and watching the sunrise. When you begin your beauty routine, douse yourself in rose water and witch hazel, maybe with a big of sage. Place your left hand on your solar plexus, located at your abdomen, and announce all the ways you are organically, immaculately beautiful. Tell yourself and the sun. Proclaim it.
Wear make-up in hues of red, orange, or gold to pay homage to the sun, as a means to honor the celestial ruler of the solstice. The sun is said to represent our cosmic will, and these uplifting colors will connect you with your personal power. Wear flowers in your hair, particularly sunflowers or wheat, which correspond with solar energies of fruitfulness and abundance. If you have a crystal face roller, even better.
Light a red, orange or yellow candle while doing your morning routine to enhance your personal vitality, and to connect you to both the element of fire and the sun. Play your favorite music and allow this fiery energy to flow through you, inspire you, and increase your own personal lifeforce. Pay tribute to the sun by dancing exuberantly, becoming blissfully rowdy and warm.
Collect the petals of seven different flowers and draw a bath with them. Add Epsom salt for cleansing and purify, adding orange slices for happiness, and a tablespoon of honey for abundance and success. Visualize the water cleansing you of worry and pouring golden energy into your power center, the solar plexus. Manifest this lifting you up with a lofty purpose and infinite potential.
No matter what the reason, June 21st has been a day of solstice celebration since ancient times. How do you celebrate summer?