Europe Prepares for Summer Solstice

As the Longest Day of the Year Edges Closer, a Number of Festivities Will Take Place Across the Continent to Mark the Event

June 20th, 2016

Our ancient ancestors attributed a great significance to the occurrence of the Summer and Winter Solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year). Today the tradition is kept alive through the various festivities, some historic and some contemporary, which are taking place across the European continent. The following are three such events which demonstrate not only the strength of our shared pagan history, but also the great cultural diversity which the occasion heralds.

Secret Solstice - Reykjavik, Iceland

Due to its northerly position, from mid to late June Iceland experiences a phenomenon known as the midnight sun. During this period, the sun does not set until after midnight, and rises a short time thereafter. Secret Solstice is a 3-day music festival which takes place during this period, from the 16 - 19 June, in the Islandic capital of Reykjavik. Currently in its third year, the festival features both established artists and those who are less well-known wishing to break onto the music scene. It features, among other acts, Islandic band Of Monsters and Men, UK band Radiohead and Irish artist Róisín Murphy. For the entire duration of the festival total darkness will not fall over Reykjavik.

Stonehenge - Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Built in several stages over the millennia, Stonehenge is arguably the most famous prehistoric monument in the world. Last year, over 20,000 people gathered to witness the sunset and sunrise over the largest collection of lintelled standing stones in the world. While various activities and events have been organised in the surrounding camps and areas, it is important to remember that Stonehenge is a sacred site, and a designated World Heritage Site of the UNESCO. Thus, the consumption of alcohol and the playing of amplified music are not permitted on the grounds, although casual musicians are expected to perform. Admission to Stonehenge will be free during the Summer Solstice.

Solstice Fires - Tyrol, Austria

Since the medieval period the Austrian summer night sky has been illuminated by mountain fires. However, these fires are neither a natural occurrence nor the work of vandals. Rather, they form part of a midsummer tradition. The most famous of these spectacles occurs around the time of the Summer Solstice in the Alpine region of Tyrol. These fires may take the form of a solitary bonfire or may be arranged to create a shape or symbol; prominent among the many symbols are the Christian sacred heart and cross. Set against the beautiful Austrian landscape, the fires make for a spectacular display.   

There are of course many other events taking place across Europe and the wider world in celebration of the solstice. These include: the Festes de Sant Joan (Menorca, Spain) Astrofest (Istria, Croatia), Midsummer (Sweden), the International Day of Yoga, held on the 21 June (Times Square, New York) and the Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival (Ottawa, Canada).


Cultural Diplomacy News
Alex Waters, CD News