Last week, the Northern hemisphere experienced the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the shortest night. In many countries, this occasion now goes uncelebrated and unremarked: you might not even know it happened. However, historically the solstice was a cause for celebration in many countries. In some places, it is still a holiday, with traditions that date back to before the spread of Christianity. Here’s a look at how the summer solstice is celebrated around the world:
Norway and Denmark– In Scandinavia, the summer solstice is an important holiday. Bonfires are a majot part of the celebrations in both Norway and Denmark. In Denmark, where the holiday is called Sankt Hans aften, the bonfire sometimes includes an effigy of a witch.
Sweden- Sweden differs from other European countries in that bonfires are not a traditional part of the Midsummer celebration. Ironically, bonfires are lit to celebrate Walpurgis Night, which falls on the first of May, while the summer solstice in June is celebrated by dancing around a maypole.
Austria- In Austria, the solstice is celebrated by a parade of ships down the Danube River, accompanied by a spectacular fireworks show.
Latvia– Summer solstice celebrations in Latvia include all the usual trappings, like jumping over bonfires and drinking heavily. However, in the Latvian town of Kuldīga, the festivities take a more unusual turn: a nude race for beer at three in the morning. In some places, that would get you arrested. Here, the police are on hand to protect the naked runners.
Portugal– In Portugal, the solstice is celebrated as part of the Santos Populares festival. The festival is basically a giant street party, with parades, costumes and interesting local traditions like mass marriages and hitting other revelers over the head with garlic.
France and other countries– Since 1982, many countries have celebrated the World Music Day. Its a music festival taking place on June 21. The idea was first taken up by the French Minister for Culture in 1981 and first took place in 1982 in Paris. Amateur and professional musician are encouraged to perform on the streets and many free concerts are organised, making all genres of music accessible to the public.