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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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