Celebrating the Summer Solstice: Ancient Festivals and Modern Practices

Celebrating the Summer Solstice: Ancient Festivals and Modern Practices June 20, 2023

Sun Over the Mountains (Courtesy of Canva)

Summer Solstice is always significant for me because it marks the longest day of the year and the peak of the sun’s power. This celestial event has been celebrated by cultures around the world for centuries. Here are a few examples of ancient summer solstice celebrations:

Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians celebrated the summer solstice as the birthday of Ra, the sun god. They believed that Ra was at the peak of his power on this day. The festival was marked by processions, music, and dance. The pharaoh would often participate in ceremonies at sacred sites, such as the Karnak Temple in Luxor. These celebrations were a way for the Egyptians to honor the sun’s life-giving energy and its role in sustaining their agricultural abundance.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, the summer solstice was celebrated as the festival of Kronia, dedicated to the god Cronos, associated with agriculture and harvest. The festivities included feasting, social gatherings, and games. Slaves were temporarily freed and allowed to participate alongside their masters, fostering a sense of equality and camaraderie.

Mayan Civilization

The Maya civilization in Central America celebrated the summer solstice with great reverence. They built architectural structures like El Castillo at Chichen Itza, where the rising sun casts shadows that create the illusion of a descending serpent. The serpent symbolized the god Kukulkan and was associated with fertility and renewal.

Norse Culture

In Norse mythology, the summer solstice marked the festival of Midsummer, also known as Litha. It was a time to honor the Norse sun goddess, Sol, and celebrate the abundance of nature. The solstice was considered a cosmic battle between light and darkness, and bonfires were lit to symbolize the triumph of the sun.

Ancient China

In ancient China, the summer solstice was a significant occasion known as the Duanwu Festival or Dragon Boat Festival. This festival involved dragon boat races, where teams rowed in long, narrow boats to the beat of drums. It was believed that the races appeased the water dragon spirits and ensured a bountiful harvest.

Ancient Romans

In the days leading up to the summer solstice, ancient Romans celebrated the Vestalia festival, which paid tribute to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. Rituals included the sacrifice of an unborn calf removed from its mother’s womb. This was the only time of the year when married women were allowed to enter the sacred temple of the vestal virgins and make offerings to Vesta there.

Summer Solstice Today

Like ancient cultures that recognized the importance of the summer solstice in their respective mythologies and agricultural practices, many modern spiritual traditions celebrate the zenith of the sun through person rituals and community events.  Here are a few ways you might celebrate the year’s longest day:

Sunrise Ritual

There’s something inherently magical about witnessing the sunrise on the summer solstice. Find a serene location, such as a hilltop or a beach, where you can greet the first rays of the sun. Allow yourself to soak up the energy.


Fire has long been associated with the summer solstice, symbolizing purification, transformation, and the triumph of light over darkness. Join a local fire festival or organize a gathering with friends and family around a bonfire. Share your visions for the remainder of the year.

Nature Walks

Take advantage of the long daylight hours and the abundance of nature during the summer solstice. Embark on a nature walk, hike, or picnic in a beautiful setting like a forest, meadow, or by the ocean. Practice being connected to all the life forms you encounter there.


We are about halfway through the year and the summer solstice reminds us that, just like all living things, we grow faster when the sun is at its zenith.  Now is a great time to journal about what you are growing in your life.

About Dr. Ahriana Platten
Rev. Dr. Ahriana Platten is a wisdom keeper, practical mystic, and leading-edge coach for spiritual entrepreneurs, visionaries, and world-changers. She guides individuals in living an authentic, purpose-driven, and passionate life. Ahriana has studied religions and spirituality for more than thirty years and is an ordained Unity minister, a master healer, and a 3rd-degree high priestess in two esoteric religious traditions. She trains and certifies master ceremonialists and provides education for those growing spiritual businesses and communities. She's a former ambassador for the Parliament of the World's Religions, the bestselling author of "Rites and Rituals - Harnessing the Power of Sacred Ceremony" and is featured in the docu-series "Time of the Sixth Sun." You can read more about the author here.

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