Celebrate the Summer Solstice

by Sue LeBreton

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, June 21 will mark the longest day of this year heralding the official start of summer. Consider both reveling in this natural wonder and creating some family traditions to observe the summer solstice. “Rituals and celebrations help kids feel connected and valued,” says Meg Cox, author of The Book of New Family Traditions. Use these suggestions as a stepping-off point to spark your own solstice ritual.

  • Plan a scavenger hunt for all ages. For smaller children, number or alphabetize clues leading to treats or some fun summer supplies. Consider sunglasses, sunscreen, bug catchers, coupons for an ice cream outing or glow-in-the-dark necklaces. For tweens and teens, try a homemade coupon for a special priviledge they have been begging for. Summer can be a good time to practice new skills and boundaries.
  • Eat outside so that you are tuning into nature on this special day. Although a backyard barbecue is great, a change of scenery can add to the festive feel. Pack a picnic dinner and head to a local park.
  • Try a family sun salutation to greet the sun. A sun salute is a great, overall body stretch for the whole family and kids will be amused by a group creating the yoga position called downward dog. Check out realage.com/fitness/yoga-sun-salutation for a simple version.
  • The summer solstice can be a time to reflect on your life. Write a wish down on paper and burn it, sending the wish into the universe. This is fun to do outside; if the weather does not cooperate, there are wishing papers that can be lit indoors; they rise and quickly turn to ash. Make your own or go to flyingwishpaper.com
  • Use this day to start some summer resolutions. Take your lead from the movie “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” (PG) and see if you and your family can develop a “Thrill Point List” for summer. What could you add to your list to make the summer of 2013 an exciting summer for everyone? Pull out the poster board and markers and let the creativity flow.
  • If you stay up until after dark, stargaze together. Find out if your local observatory has scheduled any summer solstice events. For novice star searches, borrow a book from the library to help you assess what you’re seeing, or use a free star-finding app such as Stellarium or SkyORB. 
  • Rituals often involve water. To mark the arrival of summer, go swimming. If nothing else, dip your toes in. How about a family battle using water balloons or squirt guns? Your willingness to embrace a mess can be a signal that the more relaxed days of summer are truly here.
  • Get your hands dirty and embrace the earth. It is not too late to plant. Consider planting in your vegetable garden for a fall harvest or add an annual to your flower garden to mark the occasion.
  • Bury any negatives. Has anyone in the family been struggling with something, such as a habit they want to leave behind? Write down any behaviors or experiences you want to put behind you and bury them. Use the solstice as a restart button.
  • Invite special friends to join your celebration; their presence will add to the festive feel.

Remember to try and capture the “we always” when building a new family tradition. Kids love the tradition of “we always eat … ” or “we always do … ” a certain thing on a special day. Maybe you will always start solstice with a pancake breakfast. Ask your children for suggestions and they will likely come up with some fun options. The unique to your family, the better.  Have fun dreaming up ways to celebrate the solstice as a family.

In Atlanta, the precise time of the solstice – when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator – is 1:04 a.m. on June 21.