Thursday, June 5, 2014
The Solstice is Coming!
It's true that there will be a lot of people doing Yoga in Times Square during the Summer Solstice, but that's not what I would call an adventure for anyone. However, The summer solstice is upon us, and this does make for some very unique traditions in northern latitudes. So, where should you go and what should you do if you choose to celebrate the summer solstice? If you live in Sweden and certain other Scandinavian countries, you will probably have the day off. In some of those northern European countries this one is a national holiday. It's not treated as a big deal in most of the United States, but that's because most things aren't. We spend most of our time deciding whether or not we should acknowledge holidays based on just how religious the holidays are.
But really, what should you do to celebrate the solstice? Well, in Fairbanks, Alaska they do have one of the more well known festivals. You will note that around the world, most of the festivals for this holiday are music oriented, and that's not completely unfounded for Fairbanks, but in addition to all of the music around town, they also have a midnight baseball game just because they can. There are no artificial lights involved with this game. It just happens to start at 10:30 at night on the night of the solstice. There's 33 years of tradition with the Solstice Festival in Fairbanks. They also have midnight sessions at pools, midnight golf, and a ton of great music. This festival lasts more than just the one day, so it is well worth the trip.
In Norway, you guessed it, they ski away the hours during the solstice. They do have festivals all over, but the big deal here is the ability to still ski in June and do it in the middle of the night. A provider called White Blue will set the whole thing up for you, and it will be a great time.
Midnight sun is really something. The Nordkapp, or North Cape of Norway is a great place to get a view of this amazing phenomenon. But there are a lot of northern places that take full advantage of the fact that they have sunlight that time of year. Yellowknife, Canada has a short festival that is mostly music. Seldovia, Alaska has a big music festival. For heaven's sake, there's a pretty big bash in Denver, Colorado. But they aren't a northern latitude. At least not that far north.
In Finland it's more of a traditional thing with bonfires to leave the past behind and venture to the future. In many ancient cultures it was time to be thankful. Thankful that there will soon be more children. Thankful that the cold is gone. Thankful for the crops that grew. Ancient Nordic culture was all about the Earth. Their gods were born of lightening and thunder. The Summer Solstice represented everything good in the world back then. They celebrated because it was warm and they had made it through another year. It was indeed the happy time of the year.
In Siberia, the local solstice festival is Ysyakh, and it is a cultural celebration of the Yakut people that call the region home. There are many events to celebrate the longest day of the year, and outsiders are welcome to visit during this time and celebrate the holiday.
Anchorage, Alaska has a full day of activities on hand for the solstice as well as parades, sports, and lots of music. Here it is a day event and does not run into the night. The whole thing is technically over around 6 pm.
In Iceland they are developing a new tradition this year with their first Secret Solstice Festival. Nordic countries have some of the best music festivals in the world. Iceland has one already that rocks and they are now shooting for two. Laugardalur is the location for this one which is hot spring valley to you and me and it's just a short drive from center city Reykjavik. There will be over 100 musical artists performing, some famous, some new. It will last for three days and have both indoor and outdoor concerts. This comes on the tails of the National Day celebration that takes place on June 17th, so it's a partying time of year to show up in Iceland.
One of the livelier places to spend the season is in St. Petersburg, Russia. Here the white nights are legendary. They celebrate with music and fireworks and all kinds of things. This is the land where they stay up and play when the nights are white. Even the drawbridges stay open until 5 am so that the cruises can run all night long. In this area it's not so much a holiday, but a season, and there are many special events over a six week or so period.
I think, but I'm not sure, that the biggest solstice celebration of them all is at Stonehenge in Britain. I'm pretty sure it's the oldest with it's druid rituals and white robes. There are tour companies that will take you out to Stonehenge for a few hours during the celebration, but remember that thousands upon thousands of people come to Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice. There have been riots in the past, so they have a lot more security these days on the longest day of the year. If you've ever wondered about the meaning of the summer solstice, or wondered about the Druid belief, this is your place to learn some significant information. You won't find a carnival at Stonehenge or a giant barbecue, or a music festival, or fireworks. What you will find is one of the most traditional religious celebrations that you'll ever see.
So, whether it be the white nights, or midnight sun that you're after, the northern latitudes celebrate June 21st, the longest day of the year. They call it Midsummer, Summer Solstice, and beginning of summer. There are many names and many terms to describe it. It is a natural phenomenon which always appeals to me. The best part is that you can choose where and how to celebrate, which makes the day of June 21st an Adventure for Anyone.