8 Great Places to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

If you can work your way to a little time off, there are some fascinating places to spend the Summer Solstice, which happens to fall on a Sunday this year. Whether you're in the northern reaches of Europe or partying in Central America, the northern hemisphere has a celebration for you.

“Everything’s right with Summer coming/ I’m the first one standing in line,” sang country crooner Clint Black in the mid-90’s. And the singer isn’t the only one waiting to celebrate June 21. Whether you call it the Summer Solstice, St. John’s Day, or just the longest day of the year, people all over the world mark the first day of the summer season with celebrations and traditions.

If you can work your way to a little time off, there are some fascinating places to spend the solstice, which happens to fall on a Sunday this year. Whether you’re in the northern reaches of Europe or partying in Central America, the northern hemisphere has a celebration for you.

Here, in no particular order, are some ideas of where to celebrate the solstice:

If Pagan rituals pique your interest, it’s hard to top the solstice celebration at Stonehenge. Even today, Druids in white robes celebrate the holiday and gather to see the sun rise over the ancient stone circle. Until 1985, there was a free music festival held at Stonehenge, but it got too rowdy for the local government and was banned. If you’d like to spend the solstice rocking out, the famous Glastonbury Festival is always held during the first days of summer.

Midsummer, as it’s called in Scandinavia, is one of the biggest holidays for Nordic countries. Bonfires, folk costumes, and dancing around a Maypole are the traditional ways to celebrate the holiday, along with a healthy dose of pickled herring. The Maypole also serves as the gathering place for the community to share some beverages and enjoy the many, many hours of daylight together.

Okay, in the Southern Hemisphere June 21st is technically the Winter Solstice, but that doesn’t mean people don’t get out together to celebrate. From boating celebrations on Lake Titicaca to sunrise gatherings in rural areas, the date is an important holiday for Bolivians.

Rather than a one-day party, Santa Barbara stretches out the solstice into a 4-day festival. With a parade, concerts, and hundreds of thousands of people coming to town for the event, the Solstice Festival is the largest arts event in the city. One publication called it a “PG-13 Mardis Gras,” with costumed dancers marching in parades along with children’s groups. The festival started in 1974 and has been growing ever since.

For something more silly than serious, the annual Fremont Solstice Parade celebrates the arrival of summer in the same quirky style that represents the Fremont neighborhood. The parade is led by body-painted cyclists, and has featured floats dedicated to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, among other political, religious, and satirical themes.

Like neighboring Bolivia, Peruvians are celebrating the Winter Solstice in June, but like their northern hemisphere friends, it is the sun that is being celebrated. Dancers, soldiers, flag-flyers, and a ceremonial king show up at an ancient battlefield to sacrifice a llama heart and ask the sun not to abandon them in the following year.

Image via Flickr user Shashi Bellamkonda/Creative Commons License

The northern-most city in the world, Longyearbyen, doesn’t see sunlight from November to late-January, so you better believe the 2,000 residents are happy to celebrate the summer solstice. Sometimes even polar bears come to town to celebrate. Whale-watching tours, hiking, skiing, and all sorts of other outdoor sporting events are popular here. All throughout Norway, though, there are music festivals and bonfires and plenty of locals willing to help you celebrate the summer sun!

The Christian holiday of St. John’s Eve is celebrated throughout Spain on the shortest night of the year. Bonfires are used to burn political effigies as well as any unwanted tokens of the previous year. Salon says that celebrants will swim in the ocean, then run and jump over the large fires as a purification ritual. Not a bad idea to start the summer free of evil spirits and past regrets.