Top 4 Summer Solstice Celebrations in Europe

1. Sweden: Maypole Dance

Given Scandinavia’s long, dark winters, it’s not surprising that the arrival of summer is a big deal throughout the Nordic countries. Traditionally, midsummer in Sweden was celebrated with a huge outdoor bonfire, which is in fact associated with Walpurgis Night celebration. As a result, Sweden adopted a midsummer pole that is decorated with greenery and flowers. This new tradition came to Sweden in the late Middle Ages from Germany, where the pole was decorated with leaves and raised on May 1 (this is why it’s called Maypole). However, in Sweden spring comes later so it’s hard to find the greenery to decorate the pole in May. So, the tradition was moved to Midsummer.

Although the Maypole sounds like a new and foreign tradition, the celebration is very close to home and rooted centuries back in Sweden: dancing, games and goofiness. And just like nature transforms in summer, midsummer celebration is considered to be a time of magic with nature thought to have special powers. Midsummer celebration is also the time of romance with unmarried women collecting seven flowers which they place under their pillow for the night, hoping to dream of their future husband.

A typical Midsummer menu features different kinds of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, sour cream and chives. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

2. England: Midsummer at Stonehenge

Stonehenge was built in three phases between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C. and its purpose remains a mystery. However, it’s known that if you stand in just the right place inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern summer solstice, facing north-east through the entrance towards a roughhewn stone outside the circle – known as the Heel Stone – you will see the sun rise above the Heel Stone, which for many people is a very spiritual and magical experience.

It sounds like a perfect spot for a midsummer celebration.

The Stonehenge Summer Solstice is a very popular event, and people from all over the world gather at this ancient site to witness and be a part of the ancient ritual. Although we don’t know what Stonehenge was built for, it surely makes midsummer celebrations ever the more special.

3. Norway: Midsummer Bonfires

In Norway, people usher in summer with a massive celebration called Slinningsbålet. While you’re practicing pronouncing the festival’s name, we’ll tell you a little about it.

Every year in summer, people flock to Ålesund, a port town on the west coast of Norway, at the entrance to the Geirangerfjord, to witness a giant bonfire. Why fire? This time of year marks the sun’s commencement of retreating and midsummer fires are believed to reflect the sinking flame of the sun.

This is not your average beach or backyard bonfire, this is a giant tower built by almost 40 people over several days which vanishes in a few hours during the midsummer celebration. Last year, the tower measured 47.4 metres tall and was made of pallets and crates. Since the tower has been growing taller each year, we cannot wait to watch it grow and burn this year. Think the Norwegian version of Burning Man!

4. Slovakia: Rodný Kruh Summer Celebration

A spiritually enriching experience in Slovakia comes around every midsummer: Native Circe is a 3-day traditional Slavic festivity, with special summer solstice rites, dressing up, music, singing and dancing.

In fact, summer is full of festivals full of dress ups including Janosik Days, Coronation Festivities, Kremnicke Gagy, Salamander Days and so many more.

If you are visiting Europe in summer, immerse yourself into Slovakian traditional summer celebrations for a deeper understanding of this ravishingly rich culture.

If you’d like more travel information for your next European summer adventure, please don’t hesitate to contact our team on 1800 242 353.