Summer Solstice: what is the sacred meaning and what peoples celebrate it?

Anna OnishchenkoNews
Summer solstice holiday. Source:

The Summer Solstice is one of the most important and ancient holidays in many cultures around the world. It is the day when the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky and gives us the longest day of the year.

For many centuries, people have been giving meaning to unusual astronomical phenomena and performing festive rites and rituals during them. OBOZ.UA tells in more detail how different nations celebrate the solstice.

When is the solstice in 2024?

The summer solstice is considered the beginning of the astronomical summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. This year, it will occur on June 20. The sun will rise at 4:46 a.m. and set at 9:13 p.m., so the day will last for 16 hours and 27 minutes.

Solstice in the world

Such an astronomical phenomenon as the summer solstice has been well known to Europeans since the Neolithic period, when the first megalithic observatories like Stonehenge were built. Their purpose was to pinpoint the day when the Sun would be at its highest point. Similar structures, such as circles lined with stones, are found in Ukraine.

Every nation gave the day of the summer solstice a special meaning and celebrated it. Its main traditions and elements in many cultures were gathering herbs, making bonfires, bathing, and magical rituals and beliefs. The fact that the games and rituals in different cultures coincide indicates the ancient origin of the holiday from a common Indo-European root.

Summer Solstice: what is the sacred meaning and what peoples celebrate it?

Ukraine, Eastern and Western Slavs

The day of the summer solstice had a special meaning for ancient Ukrainians. With the advent of Christianity, it was renamed Ivan Kupala and became associated with the birthday of the Forerunner John the Baptist.

Eastern Slavs in eastern Poland and southern Lithuania also celebrate Ivan Kupala.


Latvia has a traditional annual Latvian holiday in honor of the summer solstice called Ligo. It is celebrated on the night of June 23-24. The use of plants for decorative, medicinal, and other purposes is important in the celebration of Ligo. Latvians also weave wreaths, jump over a fire, look for fern flowers, and sing traditional songs.


In Estonia, the holiday dedicated to the summer solstice is called Jaanipää and coincides with the celebration of the day of victory in the Battle of Venden over the Baltic Landeswehr, the memory and struggle of all Estonians, and St. John's Day.


The Finns and Ingermanlanders have a holiday called Johannus. It is named after John the Baptist. Since 1955, it has been celebrated on the first Saturday after June 19. During the celebration, it is customary to decorate the house, boat and other places where people gather with birch branches and light a big fire.

Summer Solstice: what is the sacred meaning and what peoples celebrate it?


Since 1953, Sweden has had a midsummer holiday. Like the Finns, it is celebrated on the first Saturday after June 19. The main Swedish celebrations, such as the installation of a promise pole, take place on the eve of the holiday.


In Portugal, the summer solstice is celebrated as the feast of St. John. Local Catholics also believe in the purifying power of bonfires.

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