Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

7 strange and wonderful ways you celebrate the summer solstice

Story highlights

  • The summer solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere.
  • Summer celebrations have a a millennia-old history.
  • Popular celebrations involve lots of food, copious drinking, and bonfires.

If Stonehenge is anything to go by, summer celebrations have a millennia-old history. While the ancient druids may have commemorated the fertility of the season, many of us are just happy to get outdoors.

In a lot of cultures, the solstice -- officially the longest day of the year -- marks the start of summer. In Scandinavia, where it's known as Midsummer, it is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar. The day is celebrated with copious amounts of herring, vodka, singing, and a dance around the maypole. Throughout much of Europe, it's referred to as St. John's Day, and is honored with bonfires and dancing, and in some cases, a naked sprint across town.

But summer's like that; it can inspire madness -- and a little bit of genius too. We asked iReporters across the globe how they welcomed the change in season, and got some interesting answers...

Eat bizarre food

Certain foods are just summertime foods: ice cream, hot dogs, doughnut Sloppy Joes... wait, what?

As it happens, the San Diego Fair has a tradition of serving up unusual grub during the summer months, with the help of Chicken Charlies -- a California state fair mainstay.

    The Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe

    "Every year, I ring in the summer by trying the food at the fair," says Californian Chris Morrow. She documented her husband's first taste of a Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe -- a version of the meaty sandwich served on a sweet, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut.

    Morrow described the treat as, "a taste conflict of sweet and savory that are not complimentary and don't register at the same time.The confusion in your mouth is weird and awesome."

    Honor tradition

    For many, the solstice is a window into generations past. Paul Jackson, a half-Swedish, Kenyan-born resident of the UK, found an old family photograph in an album belonging to his mother.

    "I love this photograph. It feels like a scene from a film," he muses.

    While Jackson won't be celebrating the Midsummer this year, he says, "I always pause a moment to think of my Swedish relatives on Midsummer evening."

    For those living far from home, the day can be a chance to reconnect with one's roots. Portland, Oregon, for instance, has a large Lithuanian community, and many choose to take part in a community gathering during Midsummer.

    "We sing songs and dance until the sun sets," recalls Darius Kuzmickas, who yearly joins the festivities, which he captured last year with his Canon camera.

    Watch the sun (not) set

    In 2009, Jorgen Nybrolin and his wife Karin decided to celebrate the holiday on a snowy mountaintop in the north of Sweden. They eschewed Stockholm's grassy plains for the Riksgransen ski resort, where it was still bright during the midnight hour.

    "This was my first time in 100% midnight sun," recalls Karin. "We had so much energy. After snowboarding in the middle of the night, we went for after-ski in the sunshine at 2am. We had only four hours of sleep and weren't even tired the next morning."

    Burn, baby, burn

    In many parts of the world, it just wouldn't be a solstice without a bonfire. Originally a pagan custom, the wood-burning ritual has since been appropriated into St. John's Day. In Greece, the men folk like to show off by leaping over the massive flames, while in France a fire marks the beginning of an annual music festival (Fête de la Musique).

    During the Norwegian midsummer (known locally Sankthansaften), celebrants go the extra mile. In the town of Bergan, youths from a local music corp build the world's largest keg bonfire.

    Bonfires are a highlight of Norwegian midsummer

    "It is the only one made out of classical kegs, as far as I know," says Jon-Arne Belsaas, who documented the blaze in 2009.

    Get in costume

    For some solstice revelers, the day just isn't complete without a costume. The druids at Stonehenge don white robes, while many Scandinavians slap on folk costumes.

    Janto Marzuk, an Indonesian native who fell in love with Midsummer after relocating to Sweden (where he's lived for 41 years), finds the garb enticing.

    "The celebration begins with procession of men and women who are dressed up with their beautiful traditional clothes," he notes.

    A traditional midsummer celebration in Stockholm, Sweden

    In the U.S., one of the most elaborate solstice celebrations takes place in Santa Barbara. Each year, the three-day festival is accompanied by a parade, peopled with colorfully-costumed stiltwalkers, performance artists, Brazilian drummers, and kids donning masks, costumes, and painted faces.

    Party. Hard.

    Libations are as much a summer stalwart as, well, sunshine. For some celebrants, alcohol is a major draw.

    "I usually don't care much for traditions, but if it comes in the form of good food, drinks and great company I can endure it," says Robban Kanto, who last year celebrated Midsummer for the first time since childhood in Zinkgruvan, Sweden.

    As a hobby photographer, Kanto took it upon himself to document the festivities. "I used the camera to get out of the other [preparation] duties," he jokes.

    Hit the beach

    For some, nothing epitomizes summer as perfectly as the beach. Victoria E. Yu, a 16-year old student with a penchant for photography, likes visiting the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier.

    "Once you're seated, the Ferris wheel begins to move at a pace that's neither slow nor fast; just a perfectly smooth rotation. It's exactly what an ideal summer is like: passing by neither too quickly nor too slowly," she says.

      CNN Celebrates

    • A jockey spurs the cows as they race in Pacu Jawi on October 12, 2013 in Batusangkar, Indonesia. This Pacu Jawi (traditional cow racing) is held annually in muddy rice fields to celebrate the end of the harvest season by the Minangkabau people. Jockeys grab the tails of the bulls and skate across the mud barefoot balancing on a wooden plank to show the strength of their bulls who are later auctioned to buyers.

      No matter the time of year, or place, a bounty of vegetables is often all it takes to get people singing, dancing, cow racing -- even parading around giant phalluses.
    • Fireworks boom, bulbs flash, and flames flicker as tens of millions of people across the globe celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Lights.
    • Our list of doomed sites include a haunted school, political prisons and an abandoned hospital. No...we wouldn't go in there either!
    • Heidi Klum attends Shutterfly Presents Heidi Klum's 14th Annual Halloween Party sponsored by SVEDKA Vodka and smartwater at Marquee on October 31, 2013 in New York City.

      Catch the best Halloween costumes from tinseltown featuring Heidi Klum, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus and all their A-list friends.
    • Masked revelers dressed-up as demons and witches take part in a Rauhnacht (rough night) New Year's procession in the southern German town of Waldkirchen on January 5, 2010. The annual festival, which finds its origins in medieval times, is held to ward off evil spirts from the past year. AFP PHOTO DDP / OLIVER LANG GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read OLIVER LANG/AFP/Getty Images)

      There are still many places in the world that treat magic as serious business. Check out our guide to the world's witchiest hotspots.
    • The best photos of the eighth and annual gathering of geeks in the city that never sleeps. The sold out event allowed fans to mingle with stars.
    • Come november, millions of red crabs living on Australia's Christmas Island make their way to the sea to mate and, eventually, lay their eggs.

      When animals come together en masse, very often so do humans. Here's our guide to the animal migrations that bring people out in flocks.
    • Surviving the all-day drinking sessions of highly potent wheat beer at the (in)famous Oktoberfest in Munich is marathon, not a sprint.
    • For one weekend in September more than 155 million people in six neighboring countries across Central America pull out all the stops to honor the birth of their nations.
    • BIG PINE KEY, FL - JULY 11: Surrounded by yellowtail snapper fish, Elizabeth Campbell of Crystal Beach, FL pretends to play a french horn, July 11 at the Underwater Music Festival in the Florida Keys. Campbell was one of about 600 divers and snorkelers that submerged to listen to a local radio station's six-hour broadcast piped under the surface via special underwater speakers at the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.

      Some hobbies take genuine talent, others just don't, but the real skill is turning your weird past-time into an international event.
    • For Muslims, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most festive periods in the religion's calendar. We asked you to send us your best Eid photos, here are your best shots.
    • The one day insect festival is sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Bugfest attracts 25,000 visitors a year and serves up a range of creepy, crawly dishes. This year, the festival will focus on scorpions.

      Humans have a strange relationship with food. This seems to be a global truth that is perhaps best evidenced by the array of unusual food festivals the world over.
    • Each year, proponents of the healing powers of mud (and those that just like to getting down in the dirt) descend on Daecheon Beach in South Korea for the annual Boryeong Mud Festival. Last year, 2.6 million people participated, many diving in to the mud marathon, mud wrestling, and several other mud-related activities on offer.

      There is something innately messy about summer. That must be why some of the world's filthiest festivals bide their time until the warmer months.
    • Janto Marzuki captured these images of a Stockholm midsummer celebration on June 20, 2008. In Sweden, families celebrate the start of summer with dancing and singing around a decorated pole in a park. They have special celebrations in folklore style in the historic animal park called Skansen.

      We asked you to send us your best solstice photos. From skinny dipping, fire jumping and dancing like a rocket -- here are your best shots.
    • BELARUS: People bathe in the lake of Vyacha during 'Ivan Kupala Day', a traditional Slavonic holiday celebration in Mochany village, 25 km outside Minsk, early 07 July 2006. During the celebration originating from pagan times, people plait wreaths, jump over fires and bathe.

      Linked to fertility -- both of the vegetal and human variety -- the solstice has spawned celebrations meant to fan the flames of love and lust.
    • iReporter Jenna Adams captured this quintessential summer day photo at an annual youth group retreat at Lake Arietta in Auburndale, Florida.

"It had been raining all day, and finally in the evening it stopped so everyone decided to go out on the lake for a couple of hours and I happened to capture this photo of one of the students jumping off the dock," she says.

"This moment in particular may not be the most memorable, but the emotions that it stirs up within me remind me of all the moments that were memorable in 2012."

      For some it was an exhilarating holiday to an exotic place, finding new love or conquering their greatest fear. For others, it was witnessing an historic event.
    • Edinburgh's annual New Year's Eve (Hogmanay) festivities are cast aglow with a torchlight procession involving more than 25,000 locals on December 30. The parade is led by Shetland's Up Helly Aa vikings (pictured).

      For many people, New Year's Eve can be disappointing -- there's so much hype in the lead-up to the event, it often falls short of the mark.
    • If your Christmas is too often one of tacky decorations, over-cooked turkey and bitter family feuds, now may be the time to plan yourself a Yuletide getaway.
    • Jen Best from Liberty, Misouri, snapped this adorable picture of her six month old nephew, Grayson, playing with fairy lights after seeing the idea on Pintrest. "(Grayson) absolutely loved the lights," she says. "When we finished, my brother picked him up, and he held a light tightly in each hand and wouldn't let go."

      Christmas is synonymous with decorations, markets and extravagant quantities of food. But traditions differ greatly depending on where you are in the world.
    • For something intended to bring pleasure to loved ones, Christmas shopping in the Internet age can be a peculiarly joyless and atomized activity.
    • KADIMA, ISRAEL - DECEMBER 5: Fesh oil-fried and caramel-filled doughnuts, called sufganiyot in Hebrew, on display at the Roladin bakery December 5, 2006 in Kadima in central Israel. In Jewish tradition, it is customary to eat the doughnuts and other foods fried in oil during the upcoming eight-day festival of Hanukkah. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC following the victory of the Jewish Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire when there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day but miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

      For some, Hanukkah is "the potato pancake holiday" -- a holiday that takes the mundane potato and gives it a massive makeover.
    • The biennale will attract artists such as Sudarshan Shetty, whose previous works have included this aluminium and wood sculpture known as "This too shall pass."

      The port-city of Kochi, on India's west coast, isn't known for its arts scene but that will change as it's first arts bienale.