The ‘official’ start of summer is around the corner! I have always been drawn to the season of summer, as a child it meant no school, long days at the pool, family vacations, and evenings spent chasing lightening bugs through the neighborhood. As I’ve grown older – my summers revolve less around the seasonal pastimes – but I do have an ‘itch’ to celebrate the change of season. The summer solstice, June 21 (in the Northern Hemisphere) is a perfect opportunity to celebrate summertime and soak up the sun in the great outdoors.
Throughout history and across cultures, the summer solstice has been marked with celebrations including religious ceremonies, rituals, and festivals. It is the longest day of the year and for many signaled the beginning of the growing season representing fertility and fulfillment.
- Do some sky observation. From an astronomical point of view, the summer solstice occurs sometime between June 20 and June 21 (sometimes June 22) in the Northern Hemisphere, and December 21 and December 22 (sometimes December 23) in the Southern Hemisphere. Most years it is on the 21st but due to the leap year in the Gregorian calendar, there is a change every few years to the date, to account for the leap years. If you'd like to witness the actual moment of the summer solstice in the sky, read How to witness the summer solstice and be sure to take all precautions to prevent eye damage.
- Sit outside and read a book. This is a good way to get connected with the sun and nature. Its simple, relaxing, and can be done morning, noon, or night on the longest day of the year whether it’s in your backyard, on your porch, or at a coffee shop. If you need a suggestion, here is a link to list of a “good summer reads” for women. http://www.womansday.com/life/10-captivating-summer-reads-108983#slide-1
- Plan some travel. Consider spending summer solstice away from home, at one of the key destinations where the summer solstice has been celebrated for centuries. In particular, Britain's Stonehenge is a must for the avid observer of the summer solstice. Stonehenge aligns with the sunrise on the solstice, making for spectacular viewing. However, you need to be there very early in the morning well rugged up because thousands of others will also be attending to celebrate the day as the sun rises. Two other places where people like to celebrate the summer solstice are Sedona in Arizona and Cairo (where an ancient sun temple was discovered in 2006). A list of summer solstice celebrations can be found in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice#Solstice_celebrations.
- Honor the sun. If you enjoy doing yoga, there is a set of exercises known as the Sun Salutation or Salute to the Sun which you can perform. These exercises are intended to exercise both your body and your soul, balancing both in harmony through both meditation and physical movement in one. Begin this exercise on the morning of the summer solstice and aim to make it a daily habit from this time on. For more detail, refer to How to do sun salutations in yoga and How to do the sun salute.
- Join an event near you. Communities and groups in your city may be celebrating the solstice in their own special way. Checkout local event boards at coffee shops or Google the name of your town and summer solstice to see if events are planned. There may be an annual event that can become your solstice tradition. Here is a link to a few community events throughout the U.S. and world: http://www.livescience.com/21059-summer-solstice-ways-celebrate.html