About the event
The June summer solstice, or midsummer, is observed throughout the northern hemisphere as the longest day. Celebrated since ancient times, different cultures and countries mark the day in different ways. In the UK, the most significant celebration is marked at Stonehenge with druids, pagans and revellers welcoming the setting and rising of the sun as people once did thousands of years ago in the same spot.
How to approach it
This is a great opportunity to introduce concepts of global cultural diversity. Explore with your class how the summer solstice is celebrated by different communities, cultures and regions. For example, Christians celebrate this day as St John’s Eve with traditional feast days, parades, bonfires or maypole dances. It is thought that these celebrations came from pre-christian, pagan festivals and many different local European traditions still have pagan elements such as the decoration of houses with birch and oak leaves in Latvia. In China the sun is considered masculine and thus the summer solstice is the peak of masculine energy. Because dragons are considered symbols of masculinity this time of year corresponds to the Dragon Boat Festival where dragon boat races and other local traditions take place.
Encourage your student’s to pick a country and find out how they celebrate the summer solstice. Ask them to compare the different celebrations. What do they have in common? What is different about them? This is a great way to get students thinking about how cultural traditions are transferred, shared and changed by different groups of people.
Secondly, and most importantly, the summer solstice is a celebration centred on the movements of the seasons around us. With its pagan origins, it marks a point in time in which ancient European cultures were intimately connected with nature and natural cycles. This is a really useful way to re-introduce this concept to students; to nurture feelings of connection and reverence for the natural world. This could be done by exploring the design and potential uses of stonehenge such as how its stones track the sun’s movements on key dates throughout the year. Ask students, what is the significance of following the seasons? Why might it make us feel a greater connection to the natural processes of the world around us?
Summer solstice is the celebration of the longest day of the year. It is the day with the most sunlight and it has been celebrated for thousands of years all over the world. Ancient people used this day to mark the turning of the seasons. At what time of year do you feel most connected to nature? Why?