Summer Solstice Celebrations Old and New

Posted on: June 21st, 2019 by Eric Morud


I can’t help but love the pictures of Stonehenge. Ancient site, modern people. Some with heavy jackets and winter hats, other with…well…A LOT LESS! Solar PV System Owners have a lot to celebrate as well, the summer solstice is the longest day of sunlight in the northern hemisphere and naturally, very profitable against their utility bill! Solar is certainly FUN for those of us who live it at TruNorth Solar but thats not what this article is about. We’ve researched some of the other FUN that happens around the world on the summer solstice and this seems like the right month to share that, as well as a little bit of history of how it came to be. Besides…what good are solar panels without the sun right?

Baseball in the middle of the night?
Thats right! Going back as far as 1906, Fairbanks Alaska celebrates the summer solstice with first pitch at 10:30pm. The game lasts all night and no lights are required. According to Major League Baseball, MLB.com, Fairbanks isn’t alone. 24 hours of baseball in Alaska supports games hosted and sponsored by MLB as well as the American Legion, USA Baseball, USA Softball, Pony Baseball and Softball, as well as many other local community events. Getting sleep while the sun shines bright outdoors is a challenge for many, why not crank up the grill, fill a cooler and “PLAY BALL!!!”

Stonehenge – Truly Magnificent both Now and in its Ancient Past
Imagine the setting; to hear nothing but complete silence amongst a crowd of 1000’s, as our ancient sun meets an ancient site and illuminates our modern world, simply breathtaking for all, and for most, a very spiritual moment. 

Each year, literally thousands gather for this event from around the world.  They gather the night before the summer solstice to watch the sun, rise above the stones (then take a selfie of course!).

It’s truly a magical event. At dawn, the central Alter stone aligns with the Slaughter stone, the Heel stone and the rising sun alike.  The sun continues to rise above and through the center of the outer stones, away from the main circle, and casting that DIRECT BEAM on the center ALTER STONE. The festivities that ensue are once in a lifetime experiences for most that attend. According to ‘Stonehenge Tours’, its a sort of ‘ad hoc’ celebration that brings together Englands New Age Tribes (neo-druids, neo-pagans, Wiccans) with ordinary families, tourists, travelers and of course party people. 

We may never know the true mysteries behind Stonehenge but its beyond comprehension for most, including myself that around the same time as Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids  and then the Sphinx were built in Egypt. If you stood at the Sphinx on June 21st, the sun would set EXACTLY between the two great pyramids…SIMPLY INCREDIBLE!

Native American Sundance sparked a month of celebrations
Until the latter part of the 19th century, when the Sundance was generally outlawed, many if not all of the Native American tribes celebrated the day with a ‘Sundance’ during the day, that commenced for many, 28 days of celebration, with a final 4 to 8 days of intense festivity. The festivity as a whole spoke to the continuity of life; it was meant to convey a cycle of regeneration wherein all of nature is intertwined. 

Perhaps not as old as Stonehenge but its a fact that Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming was designed to align with sunrise and sunset during the summer solstice, where tribes would converge for sun gazing dances around a sacred cottonwood tree. The tree was symbolic of the connection between heaven and Earth.

The Ancient Vikings
One might think that of all the ancient cultures, surely the Vikings threw the biggest and baddest party of them all right? Not so, but perhaps this explanation speaks volumes to the successes of their intentions. It’s widely believed that the Vikings used this time for productivity purposes, given the long stretches of daylights for both before and immediately after the summer solstice.

While the rest of the pagan world, more on that next, was partying the night away, the vikings would use this time to discuss legal matters and resolve disputes. True to their character, this was also an opportune time to conduct trade, shipping, fishing and of course…raids!

While the opposite affect persists each winter, it’s important to remember that north of the arctic circle, in most of Viking land during the time of the solstice, the sun would only set for a few hours if at all. Consider this bonus time for overtime with the ancient Vikes…Skol!

Modern Irish and Scandinavians
Near and dear to our heart (because our Sales Director, Eric Morud and his family lives there) is how the Irish celebrate the summer solstice and Bonfire night. It’s an annual event that now days lands on June 23rd, which is the eve of St. John’s Day. The reality is that this Christian celebration stemmed most certainly from the pagan rituals that surrounded the summer solstice. Regardless of its origin or current reason for the season, its a great rural and cultural opportunity for neighbors to gather and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Each neighbor not only contributing food and drink to the festivities but its also customary for all to contribute to the bonfire itself. Not by clearing out old firewood or cutting up brush from a nearby forest, but rather, taking all the goods from spring cleaning (ie…old furniture, cabinets, or perhaps an old wooden shed for example)…and lighting it ABLAZE!

Not too far to the east the Northern European countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland continue the festivities of ancient past with bonfires of the “Midnight Sun”. For many different reasons these festivities take place, to celebrate the fertility of the earth tends to be the traditional and popular. This would be the modern twist to the ancient pagan bonfire night celebrated by their neighbors, the Celts. The Celts believed that the bonfires banished evil spirits and demons, instead cultivating magic.

Whether its gathering with neighbors over a bonfire, playing baseball in the middle of the night or watching your solar juiced utility meter spin backwards, the sun gives us plenty of reason to celebrate. The power it gives to us is beyond comprehension and it clearly has been the same for our ancient ancestors. We hope you have enjoyed the small bit of research we put together and continue to enjoy the sun’s power and loyalty for years to come.