Tuesday, June 21 is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun will bathe the Arctic Circle in 24 hours of daylight, and ancient monuments around the world will align with the sun. Historically Europeans celebrated the summer solstice by gathering plants and holding bonfires and festivals. Native American plains tribes held sun dances.
The first day of summer is a great time to start new family traditions. Seasonal celebrations are a fun way to connect with nature and they can be as easy or elaborate as you want them to be. Here are a few ideas:
1. Take a trip to the library a few days before your celebration and pick out books about summer. Some of my family’s favorite summer picture books include:
- Before the Storm by Jan Yolen
- Summertime Waltz by Nina Payne
- Canoe Days by Gary Paulsen
- Sun Dance Water Dance by Jonathan London
- Summer is Summer by Phillis and David Gershator
- Under Alaska’s Midnight Sun by Deb Venasse.
2. Place a bouquet of roses, lilies, or daisies in your family members’ bedrooms while they sleep, so they wake to fresh summer flowers.
3. Find a special place outside to watch the sunrise and sunset. You can find out what time the sun will rise and set where you live here.
4. Eat breakfast outside.
5. Trace each other’s shadows throughout the day to note the sun’s long trip across the sky.
6. Take a camping trip. Light a fire at night to celebrate the warmth of the sun. Sleep outside. Wake with the sun.
7. Go on a nature hike. Bring along guidebooks to help you identify birds, butterflies, mushrooms, or wildflowers.
9. Display summer decorations: seashells, flowers, sand dollars, or whatever symbolizes summer in your family.
10. Gather or plant Saint John’s Wort. Traditionally Europeans harvested the plant’s cheerful yellow flowers on the first day of summer, dried them, and made them into a tea on the first day of winter. The tea supposedly brought the summer sunniness into the dark winter days. If you don’t have any Saint John’s Wort in your garden, consider planting it. It is an incredibly useful herb, and it thrives in poor soil with little attention. Find out more about it here.
11. Visit a U-pick farm to harvest strawberries, snap peas, or whatever is in season where you live. Find a “pick your own” farm near you here.
12. Make a summer feast. Eat exclusively from your garden or the farmer’s market to celebrate the bounties of summer in your area.
13. Host a “locavore” potluck.
14. Turn off all the indoor lights, light candles, and eat dinner outside.
15. Play outside games, watercolor, or decorate the sidewalks with chalk until the sun sets.
16. Read aloud from The Summer Solstice by Ellen Jackson.
17. Read aloud, watch, or put on your own rendition of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. For kids, check out the book A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Kids by Lois Burdett or Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Kids: 3 melodramatic plays for 3 group sizes by Brendan P. Kelso.
Need more inspiration? Check out these resources: