The summer solstice is almost here. On the astronomical calendar, June 20th is the longest day of the year, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis. For centuries, civilizations around the world from Aztecs in Mexico to the pagan communities of Europe celebrated with special summer festivals. You can use the traditional customs as inspiration and create your own rituals for celebrating the summer solstice.
In ancient Roman culture, there was a summer solstice pre-festival known as Vestalia. This festival honored Vesta, the goddess of the hearth who guarded marriage and virginity. For the celebration women, referred to as Vestales or Vestal Virgins, decorated their homes with flower garlands and baked a cake using water from a holy spring and sacred salt. They would make this cake an offering for Vesta.
You can celebrate the summer solstice by combining the floral and culinary customs of Vestalia. Consider baking a floral Italian cake. You can bake any cake you like, such as a pastiera Napoletana. This Italian cake has a special ingredient: orange blossom water. You can find a recipe here.
In European pagan culture, the summer solstice was referred to as Litha. Litha is a celebration of the battle between light and dark and the balance between fire and water. To celebrate Litha, pagans set large wheels on fire and then rolled them down a hill into a body of water. You can recreate this custom with floating candles and decorative glass bowls. Fill the bowls with water, flowers (or flower petals), and lit floating candles to recreate this water and fire balance. These beautiful arrangements are a cool way to honor the summer solstice and they will bring a touch of summer to your home.
Midsummer’s Eve is celebrated in countries around the world. In Denmark, people celebrate Midsummer’s Eve (known as Sankt Hans Aften in Danish) by building bonfires and burn straw effigies. In other cultures, summer solstice bonfires were thought to ward off evil spirits as well.
You can honor this custom by sitting around a bonfire in your backyard. Also you can dig a hole in your lawn and make your own bonfire pit or you can buy a backyard fire pit for your extended patio. You can take a few moments to reflect by the fire or enjoy the company of your loved ones.