By Charlie Smith-Knight
LIFE & LIVING
ISSUE NO: 151
Charlie Smith-Knight welcomes the onset of summer by looking at how we can all have a sensational summer solstice celebration.
It’s that time of year again when we, the British collective, turn our faces upward in the hope of seeing brilliant blue skies coming to move those grey clouds on their drizzly way. Because – if nothing else – we are baselessly optimistic. Regardless of the weather, the summer solstice will arrive on Wednesday 21st June heralding the astronomical start of summer in the northern hemisphere. Coming from the Latin ‘sol’ and ‘sistere’, the term translates roughly as the ‘sun standing still’ which is attributed to the day as it has the most hours of daylight. Having the sun’s undivided attention certainly feels like cause for celebration so here are some subtle nods you can incorporate into your mid-June hum pday to acknowledge the arrival of British summertime.
Down in Wiltshire, June 21st will start at dawn for the many making a pilgrimage to Stonehenge. The sarsen standing stones hold deep significance to Pagans and Druids alike, as their arrangement frames the sunrise at summer solstice and the sunset at winter solstice. 5000 years after their inception and it’s busier than a Next sale as crowds gather to watch the sun rise to the left of the Heel Stone, with the first rays of the day illuminating the heart of Stonehenge. Whilst I’m not suggesting a mass exodus to Salisbury, why not set those 4am alarms and be ready to greet the day in your favourite place, whether it be the beach or your own backyard. Be the early bird catching the summer worm, preferably with a large cup of something strongly caffeinated.
Over in Sweden our continental cousins will be getting ready for their Midsummer celebrations. Dating back to the early 1500’s and rooted in agrarian society, Midsummer was originally a festival of fertility. Flower crowns were worn as a sign of potency and young women would pick seven different types of flowers to place under their pillows in the hope of dreaming of their future husbands. Today, Swedes often migrate to the countryside with family and friends to partake in festivities like dancing around maypoles, decorating the house with greenery and enjoying food, such as pickled herring and cured salmon in the great outdoors. Try dialling into the Scandinavian way of life and decorate with florals, make a picnic or have your lunch in the park. Flower up your outfit and wear those blooms with all the pride of a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you’re feeling daring, think like Kirstie Allsopp and make your own maypole. There’s bound to be a tutorial for that online.
If pickled herring isn’t cutting the mustard, why not try actual mustard, on some barbequed meats? The Finnish also celebrate Midsummer, albeit it with a pyrotechnic twist. Nordic inhabitants’ light large bonfires on the eve of Midsummer to keep away the evil spirits and to promote a healthy harvest. Save next door’s fence and a visit from the fire brigade by enjoying a conservative evening round the fire pit. Throw some burgers on the barbeque and partake in a pared down (but delicious) version of the Finnish festivity.
Similarly, Spaniards celebrate the Night of San Juan (St. John) with large bonfires on the beach and a cleansing dip in the ocean. St John’s Eve is June 23rd but is closely associated with the summer solstice due to its proximity on the calendar. Fire is symbolic of St John’s celebrations from Croatia to Ireland. The fires are lit to burn away bad memories and to make wishes for the new season whereas taking a plunge in the ocean is said to come from the romantic notion of finding a partner. Whilst some people like to see in the New Year with a bracing seaside splash, why not try the North Sea for the (mildly) more agreeable June water and welcome summertime feeling refreshed and rejuvenated? Just don’t forget your towel. It’s still England.
Rise with the sun, bedeck yourself in florals and spend some time appreciating Mother Nature this solstice. Take as much inspiration as you see fit. Just be as keen as a double texter for the arrival of brighter days and the chance to revel in the light fending off the dark for the next few months. Summer is coming. So let’s go! Because there’s always the possibility that you’ll blink and miss it.