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Comin’ Right Up: Summer Solstice

Mark your celestial calendars for June 21 …

the Summer Solstice!

At 12:24 am EST, the earth’s northern hemisphere will tilt toward the sun in its most dramatic fashion of the year, and that means we’ll experience both the shortest night and longest day of 2017.

This event marks the official beginning of summer here on the northern half of the globe, while the southern hemisphere starts its winter season.

This solstice has been celebrated by cultures above the equator for eons, and many of those rituals linger in modern festivities from California to Croatia (and dozens of destinations in between). Here are a few Summer Solstice traditions to tickle your travel bone.

Sânzienele at Cricău Festival in Romania

Photo by Saturnian via Wikimedia Commons

Sânziană is the Romanian name for bedstraw flowers, as well as fairies of local folklore, and the annual solstice festival in the Carpathian Mountains is held in their honor. According to Wikipedia, the most village maidens dress in white and spend all day picking flowers, of which one MUST be Galium verum (Lady’s bedstraw or Yellow bedstraw). The girls braid the flowers into crowns, which they wear upon returning to the village at nightfall. There, they meet the fellows they fancy and dance around a bonfire. The crowns are thrown onto roofs of the village houses. If a crown falls, it is said that someone will die in that house; if the crown stays on the roof, then good harvest and wealth will be bestowed upon the owners.

Stonehenge Solstice Celebration in England

Photo by Paul Townsend via Flickr

“The site itself is cloaked in mystery, and historians, archaeologists and mystics alike have long debated its baffling construction. And while theories abound, we may never know for sure whether it was an ancient burial ground, a temple of worship to ancient earth gods, a prehistoric observatory, or something we’ve yet to consider. Today, the summer solstice draws an eclectic mix of revelers to Stonehenge to witness the sun rising above the stone circle, which aligns perfectly with the summer solstice sunrise,” reports the Huffington Post.

Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade in the USA

Photo by Antandrus via Wikimedia Commons

Santa Barbara’s Summer Solstice Parade began in 1974 as a lavish birthday celebration for Michael Gonzalez, a local mime and artist. The parade has grown into the largest single-day event in Santa Barbara County, attracting massive crowds of visitors. Weeks before the parade, artists and technicians collaborate with the community to conceive ideas, build floats, make costumes, and prepare for the elaborate June show.

Solstice Fires on Kupala Night in Belarus

Photo by On Being via Flickr

To celebrate Kupala, an ancient fertility rite at the Summer Solstice, young people jump over the flames of bonfires to test their bravery and faith. The failure of a couple in love to complete the jump while holding hands is a sign of their destined separation. Girls will also float floral wreaths of flowers lit with candles on rivers, attempting to divine knowledge of their future spouses. Young men attempt to capture the wreaths in hopes of wooing the women who floated them.

Astrofest in Croatia

Photo courtesy of MaxPixel.com

Astrofest, a celestial celebration of the solstice, attracts amateur astronomers and stargazing enthusiasts to the Višnjan Observatory in Istria, Croatia. According to the Huffington Post, “The event is a unique and magical way to celebrate the solstice, combining science and spirituality, celestial skygazing, and New Age music, drum circles, and performances. Istria also boasts exceptional wine and local cuisine, making the event gastro- and astro-nomical.”

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Tiny Homes

Tiny homes are all the rage right now. And us farmgirls probably aren’t all that surprised. After all, downsizing, living responsibly and sustainably, saving money, leaving a small footprint, and going “off the grid” are all things we old-fashioned gals cherish. The average U.S. home is around 2,100 square feet, and the average tiny home is between 100–400 feet. That’s a lot of downsizing for some of us! But then again, before you panic at the thought, consider pop-up trailers, Airstreams, and glamping. We heart those things. Could you live there, not just vacation there?

Could you, would you, should you?

Millions of Americans are, and they aren’t looking back, either. When you think about actually owning your own home, instead of paying rent or a seemingly never-ending mortgage to the bank, the daydream starts to take shape.  For most Americans, 1/3 to 1/2 of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads; and because of it, 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. (Check out this site for more statistics.)

And getting rid of stuff and clutter has been shown to be a huge stress and depression reliever. Tossing all of those Halloween decorations, Aunt Sybil’s ashtray collection, or 10 years’ worth of Better Homes and Garden ‘zines can really soothe your soul. It’s science!

But the tiny house is trend isn’t really a trend. After all, tiny houses go back hundreds of years.

photo via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

photo by Simon Burchell via Wikimedia Commons

Varda wagons were tiny houses used by the British Romani gypsies, most often during the 1850s through the first part of the twentieth century, which was their day in the sun, so to speak. Outfitted with cast-iron stoves and usually decorated lavishly, they make some of the tiny homes on the shows featured on television (Tiny House Hunters; Tiny House, Big Living; Tiny House Nation; and Tiny House Builder, to name a few) pale in comparison.

photo by Jolanta Dyr via Wikimedia Commons.

Some of the best and most impressive varda wagons are gone forever. The Romanis have a tradition of burning the wagons, along with all the owner’s possessions, after the death of the person. Our loss!

The Romanis still travel to this day, but nowadays, they mostly prefer caravans, with long lines of modern looking campers, glampers, trailers, Subaru Outbacks, and Costco tents. Occasionally, you’ll still find the horse-drawn vardas, especially for special occasions like the Appleby Horse Fair, pictured here:

photo by slippy via Wikimedia Commons.

If you’re lucky enough to find one for sale (whether it be a real gypsy wagon or a modern tiny home), snatch it up. You can be like the beloved children’s author, Roald Dahl, who bought a varda for his children to play in, then later, transformed it into his writing office/nook.

Just promise us you won’t have it burned after your death, okay?

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Let’s Go Champing

If you’re a farmgirl, you know all about glamping, but have you heard what tourists are doing in England?

It’s called champing, and it just may be the best thing since the invention of s’mores.

Churches + camping = champing! Picture this: unrolling your sleeping bag to sleep, not exactly under the stars, but under some of the most beautiful and history-drenched architecture that side of the pond. Camping in medieval churches might seem … well, peculiar. Okay, maybe a tad, but the atmosphere can’t be beat.

photo, champing.co.uk

Champing is a new phenomenon. Begun in 2014 by the Churches Conservation Trust, it started with the first champing offer at All Saints’ Church in Aldwincle, Northamptonshire. Promising that you (the uh … champer?) would be the first to stay the night in the church, “apart from a few weary pilgrims, monks, and a tired vicar or two,” that is.

The Trust saw some success with their unique lodging accommodations, and have now expanded to 12 champing locations. History lovers will hardly be able to sleep while they marvel over things like 14th-century stained-glass windows, 17th-century wall paintings, 18th-century wooden box pews, 14th-century bell towers, rare bread shelves (where the wealthy used to leave loaves of bread for the poor), a “ducking stool” (used for “gossips” in the 15th century), and organs for a little night music. Urban legend has it that Shakespeare himself performed his plays in one of the locations. Of course, champers who love a good ghost story won’t be able to resist a moonlit stroll through the accompanying graveyards.

Odd it may be, and it might not float every camper’s boat, so to speak, but over 300 champers stayed that first season, and that number doubled in size by 2016. Guests say while they expected to be “spooked out,” the churches were calm and serene (some now offer yoga down the lane in the mornings to go with that tranquil feeling). And if you’re worried that you need to be a card-carrying member of a religious organization, the website reassures you with these sage words: “You don’t have to be a squealing preteen to enjoy a One Direction concert.”

Room service, mini bar, hot tub, and gym may not be included, but we don’t think you’ll miss them. Find out more at Champing.co.uk.

Church of All Saints, Odiham, via Wikimedia Commons.

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