Tonight is Midsummer’s Eve as tomorrow, Sunday June 21st is the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, and winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. Summer solstice is also called Litha—Celtic for the month of June. The date varies between June 20 and June 22 mainly due to the calendar system – most western countries use the Gregorian calendar which has 365 days in a normal year and 366 days in a Leap Year.
The word “Solstice” comes from the Latin words, sol sister, meaning “sun stand still”. On the longest day of the year it certainly does seem like the sun is standing still as it reaches its furthest point from the equator. Although modern society has deemed this day as the pin point for the beginning of summer, this phenomena actually sets off the turning point where the days begin to get shorter. Our ancestors knew it then that the Summer Solstice marks Midsummer because this is the beginning of the end of summer. Over the centuries, the June solstice has inspired countless festivals, midsummer celebrations and religious holidays. The Sun’s golden power is celebrated at solstice. In early times there were bonfires at midnight to reflect the solstice as the longest day of light for the year. You can wake up early to carve out a little extra time to celebrate, give thanks, welcome and join in on the energy on this longest day of the year. Here are some ways for you to embrace Midsummer.
Strawberries Drenched in Honeyed Cream
European midsummer-related holidays are particularly important in geographic Northern Europe and particularly Sweden. As the Swedes term it, Midsommar, is the Swedish celebration of Summer Solstice. Swedes, like many in Europe, have celebrated the longest day of the year since pagan times. In a northern land where the sun barely rises during the dark, snowy winter, summer is a time to celebrate the golden outdoors. It’s a time to sing and dance, ideally around a flower-studded maypole or large bonfire, eat the best of the summer crops, and toss back shots of bracingly strong alcohol. New potatoes and strawberries are just coming to harvest at Midsommar, and a Swedish party wouldn’t be complete without them. Usually the berries are served fairly unadorned, save for some lightly sweetened whipped cream.
I’ve taken the Swedish tradition of simple strawberries to heart, and as honey as well as gathering of herbs is complimentary to the season, I think pairing the Strawberries with honeyed cream and a hint of basil is simply sumptuous for a midsummer desert. Basil is a midsummer herb and the combination of berries and herbs are absolutely divine for a Summer Solstice celebration. Enjoy Strawberries Drenched in Honeyed Cream on this long warm day with this recipe:
Lemon Mint Water
If you are planning on spending the entire day harnessing the sun’s power in the outdoors, let’s face it, it is hot. It has been scorching hot with extreme temperatures in Southern California and I can imagine that it is similar elsewhere. So, remember to replenish yourself while you enjoy this glorious summer day. Water is the best way to do this and you can add some earthly summer elements into your ice water to keep you balanced.
In a pitcher or Ice Cold Water add a few slices of lemon and a couple of mint leaves and enjoy. Use lemon and mint leaves to your desired taste for strength of flavor.
Harvest Herbs and Make Fire Incense
The Summer Solstice is often the time of the first harvest and hence a celebration of this bounty has been held for hundreds of years. The day lasts so long, that the gaiety lasted well into night, with dancing, food, mead, wine and merriment. The sun, Sol, brings life to growing crops in the field and warmth to the bones of the workers who harvest. This is reflected in the midsummer rituals or plucking herbs, for this special day, which brings added vigor and potency to the herbs. If you have an herb garden collect a few herbs to dry by simply picking it up and tying it up in small bundles in a well ventilated area. Once they are completely dry store them in air tight jars.
To make your own magical summer fire incense it is easy to use loose ingredients which are burned on top of a charcoal disc or tossed into a fire. For a Midsummer night celebration, it is perfect to have your own mixture of herbs to toss into your fire and enhance the aroma in the night’s air. At midsummer nine different herbs are thrown into the blazing flame. For the Summer Solstice I have a fiery mixture, since it is all about the sun and its strength.
Midsummer Fire Incense
You’ll need a Mortar & Pestle for this.
3 parts myrrh
1 part apple blossoms
½ part bay leaves
½ part basil leaves
½ part cinnamon bark or cinnamon
1 part chamomile flowers
1 part lavender flowers
2 parts mugwort
½ part rosemary
Add your ingredients to your mixing bowl one at a time. Measure carefully, and if the leaves or blossoms need to be crushed, use your mortar and pestle to do so. As you blend the herbs together, state your intent.
You may find it helpful to charge your incense with an incantation, such as:
Balance of the heavens and earth below,
The power of the sun in this incense grows.
Cinnamon, mugwort, apple and bay,
Fire and water, on this longest day.
Herbs of power, blended by me,
As I will, so it shall be.
Store your incense in a tightly sealed jar. Make sure you label it with its intent and name, as well as the date you created it. Use within three months, so that it remains charged and fresh.
Summer Solstice is a day in which you want to incorporate nature into your food – natural, herbs, flowers, and nuts are all wonderful elements for your Midsummer recipes. I have Midsummer Cookies that exude all the elements of the Summer Solstice – Pistachio Rose Water Cookies. Flavors of lemon citrus, rose flowers, and natural green pistachio nuts will burst in your mouth with every bite of this cookie. Midsummer’s Eve is said to be a time when fairies abound in great numbers. This is a great time to commune with them and leave gifts of sweets outdoors. Give an offering of these delectable cookies to the fairies.
Summer Solstice Sun Tea
Absorbing the energy of the sun is a big part of the Summer Solstice ritual of ancient times. The sun is at the height of its power before beginning its slide into darkness. So, what better way to embrace this than allowing a brew to absorb the sun’s magical rays all day long for you to enjoy under the midsummer stars? Herbal tea is a midsummer ritual in its rite with the gathering of fresh herbs. Here is a little concoction of Herbal Sun Tea for a simple and easy way to consciously welcome in the summer.
Herbal Sun Tea
2 green tea bags
Lemon slices, squeezed into the water
Lemon balm leaves
Sweetener of your choice (optional)
You can also exclude the tea bags and go to your garden and select any herbs of your choice for this, like lavender, spearmint, etc.
After you have gathered your ingredients, say a little thank you for the nourishment.
Place your ingredients in a clear glass jar, cover herbs completely with cool water and place the lid on your jar. (Use one cup of herbs per quart of water).
Give your jar a few gentle shakes to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed. This is a nice time to set an intention, set in some of your juju, and give some more thanks.
Place your jar of solstice tea in a sunny spot on the grass, porch or table for at least 3-5 hours. The warmer the day, the less time you may need. Placing your jar on the grass is a lovely way to embrace the energy of the Sun and the Earth.
Let your sun tea sit throughout the day to soak up this Solstice Sunshine. At sunset you can strain it and chill it if you like. Then enjoy your favorite tea ritual on Midsummer night laying out on a blanket under the stars, perhaps with some midsummer cookies. Relax and let the magic around you come to life.