Marking the Solstice has been a tradition in many cultures for thousands of years. Before calender's and clocks were invented and widely used, and of course the invention of electricity the length of daylight was how people structured and lived their lives.
Countries with especially hard and long winters would find the summer solstice as much of a celebration as Christmas with the total gratitude for the power of light and warmth this season, however short, would bring.
Just because we now have the ability to live in a way that ignores this cycle of the light doesn't mean that we need to bypass these moments to really take time to celebrate the simple requirements of life.
In different cultures, different religions and different spiritual practices the Solstice will be celebrated for different reasons, but they all come back to the core of what it is about, Light.
It is the longest day of light in the year and it is a time to mark all that light brings us, the food we eat, the warmth, the joy of summer arriving, the song birds, the green plants and trees, and of course the ability to see it all.
But for me it's also a chance to celebrate our inner light, the energy that shines from us and guides us through our life. Each and every one of us has a light to shine, and our journey along the spiritual path is about uncovering that light and stepping fully into its power. Each solstice is a chance to reflect on our journey from darkness to light and see how far we've come and also to sow seeds and set intentions fro the next cycle around the sun.
As with everything how you celebrate or mark the solstice is deeply personal to you, and please don't fill your day with so many rituals that you miss the point of reflection! But here's some ideas of how you can mark the day, gathered from cultures around the world. I'm by no way suggesting that you do them all, but you may be drawn to one or two ways to mark this powerful day:
1) Rise early on Sunday morning, just before the sun raises above the horizon and head to a spot that inspires and calms you, the beach, a meadow, woodland or even your garden. Somewhere in nature where you can hear and feel it around you, take a flask of warm drink, a blanket and layer up (it's chilly at that time) and sit. Allow yourself to absorb the peace that is at that time of day, not doing anything, just being in that moment and feeling the beauty of the day ahead.
2) Journal, after a whilst sitting, (this can be at any time of day) take your notepad and allow yourself to write freely, how you are feeling that day, what does light mean to you, any thing that may be coming to the surface, maybe reflect on your journey, or write your hopes and dreams fro this next cycle. Allowing your thoughts and feelings to spill onto the page can feel daunting to start, but if you let yourself unlock this and the pen to flow you will discover things that sit below the surface. If you're worried about others reading these you can always burn them afterwards, its the act of allowing these out of you that is powerful rather than having a beautiful essay to read at the end, so don't worry if it makes no sense or is messy and incoherent, its not about the perfection, it's about the truth.
3) Light a fire, a lot of cultures celebrate the day of light by lighting bonfires, this may seem the last thing to do on mid-summer but the essence of lighting something is powerful in itself, you are also conjuring up the element of fire and light which is what the day is all about. If you have a fire pit lighting this on the day/night before and keeping it stoked over the solstice is a lovely thing, and if a fire pit or bonfire is a bit out of your reach, then a large candle will do the trick, just make sure its safe.
4) Gather trinkets from nature, go on a walk over the solstice and collect some objects from nature that jump out at you as you walk, these can be on your alter for the next year reminding you of your journey and the energy you wish to create.
5) Sit with your family and practice some gratitude, talk about what you are grateful for so far this year and maybe even your hopes and dreams for the next part of the year. You could also come up with nature activities to do once a month to remember this connection you have made.
6) As the sun sets take some quiet time to mark this, the sun setting on the solstice is such a powerful event as its the latest the sun will set for that year, like for the early morning, take a blanket and hot drink to somewhere that feels sacred to you and sit to watch the sun going down. Sunsets hold a big place in most of our hearts, when were on holiday we will be drawn to watch them, but in normal life they are easily missed when surrounded by houses and towns. So maybe just for tonight, load the family up and go in search of a place to watch the sunset, take your supper and make it an occasion, maybe even a celebration.
Hopefully this has got you thinking about how you would mark this day, if you just don't have time or the health this year to do anything big, give yourself a moment to breathe. This is everything in life and will be just as powerful and magical.