Celebrating a solstice.
The 21st approaches, and with it comes midsummer or midwinter depending on your side of the hemisphere. The last solstice we celebrated in December was winter, but come the 21st June we will be celebrating midwinter once again as we spend our first month in Australia.
Whichever way the solstice falls where you are, they tend to come in a nice lull during the year, so they can provide a wonderful grounding celebration for families. There’s something a bit special about the longest or the shortest day, and each have their own unique warmth about them.
With solstices and equinoxes we tend to follow the same rhythm of some kind of feast that we choose and prepare together, and a nature walk so we can immerse ourselves a little in the current season. If you’re looking to begin a few traditions of your own or add to your existing ones, I have a few suggestions for both celebrations below…
Ways to celebrate a summer solstice:
Solstices are often attributed with fire; you could see in the longest of evenings with a garden bonfire or fire pit. Hot chocolate can easily be made, marshmallows could be roasted, or perhaps you could try your hand at making bread wrapped around sticks. if you’re brave and feel like you are experienced enough at fire-lighting, there are plenty of child-friendly options out there to encourage this skill.
By midsummer the flowers are usually rioting, especially in the northern hemisphere. Now is a great time to weave flower arranging into your weekly practices or let your child pick their own responsibly with permission or from a florist. Making flower crowns is traditional on a summer solstice too.
Sun salutations are a sweet way to honour the sun, as well as being a lovely mindfulness practice for children. Cosmic Kids does a Hello Sun sequence that is simple and also full of fun movements.
Elderflowers have long been associated with midsummer as they are often fully in bloom by the end of June, and harvesting them and turning them into cordial is lots of fun. There’s a recipe for cordial here, but you could always go one step further and turn it into jelly or ice lollies too.
Acknowledge the gifts summer brings in simple ways; pick berries from your local pick-your-own, spend a few minutes in the sunshine, watch the bees pollinating to bring more flowers, fruits and vegetables…
Make collages in your garden or local park, putting glue into small pots and packing them in your bag with a brush and some paper. Or try your hand at making seed paper and drying it in the sun. (Don’t forget to forage petals, sticks and leaves from the ground rather than the trees and plants!)
Celebrating with friends and family is often a nice way to spend a solstice. In Sweden midsummer is a huge cause for celebration, they often dance around a kind of maypole so taking inspiration and holding a little dance party for small ones and their friends could be a lovely way to truly see in the summer.
Ways to celebrate a winter solstice:
I’m always a big advocate for seasonal produce. Take to the markets or farm shops together and choose some root veg for a stew or soup at home. Vegetables are the perfect thing for your child to try their hand at chopping; use a crinkle cutter for toddlers and a sharper kids knife for older children.
Light up the darkness of the longest night with candles bought or make your own. Very small children can glue and stick on jars to create tealight holders, you can roll up beeswax sheets together to create gorgeous honeycomb pillars, or older children could try dipping candle wicks to make their own.
Being the longest night, the moon is prevalent in the night sky and can serve as a base board to leap into all kinds of moon study. It could be a great time to talk about the moon phases, speak about orbits, or to delve into the many beautiful books for children. The bi-centenary of the moon landing also just passed, so NASA has a huge selection of resources available.
In colder months food banks and refuge centres tend to be much more used - and therefore need more donations - than in the warmer. A visit to your local supermarket to fill up the food bank bin or a declutter of a few unused but good toys for a women’s refuge is a little token of goodwill for your children to take part in.
Roll a few bird feeder balls or buy a bird feeder to fill with seed as a gesture to the birds as the sparser seasons begin, or try your hand at this sweet idea for an edible tree for local wildlife.
We often decorate for a solstice, and create a display of wintry items such as pinecones, fir sprigs and a Waldorf star or two to cosy up the house. You could also try your hand at making orange pomanders, which double up as a sweet fine motor activity for small hands.
What are your plans for this solstice? Have you got any traditions?