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Midsummer Madness - Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Jun 20, 2008
Whether you're into dancing round a bonfire with a drum or loitering round a bbq with a paper plate, the longest day is good news. Let's just hope the weather realises it's Summer in the Northern Hemisphere this weekend.

The Summer Solstice occurs on 20 or 21 June every year and is also known as Midsummer, Litha or St John's Day. This year in England, the sun will rise at about 4.45am and set at 9.20pm on Saturday 21 June. Plenty of time for honouring Mother Earth and the Sun King or perhaps, the chargrilled burger and the King of Beers.

This event has been celebrated since ancient times by pagans and believers alike. These days, parties and festivals are organised across Northern Europe, Ireland, Britain, Canada, the United States and some parts of Southern Europe. If the weather's good, millions more will be enjoying their back gardens or the beach throughout the long Summer's day.

Typical pagan activities at Midsummer include keeping a sacred fire burning; staying up all night to welcome the rising sun at dawn; dancing ecstatically around a bonfire; burning a Yule wreath; making a pledge to Mother Earth; and exchanging magical gifts with friends.

Some non-pagans may find themselves doing similar things after one cheap beer too many. Though friends may not find it magical when you're circling the bbq like a maniac and hurling condiments onto the grill.

Every year pagan revellers flock to Stonehenge in Wiltshire where English Heritage provides 'managed open access' to the stones for the Summer Solstice. Visitors can be amongst the hallowed stones this year from 8.30pm on Friday 20 June until 8.00am on Saturday 21 June.

No camping, bonfires or amplified music is permitted at Stonehenge but there are samba bands and drummers providing atmospheric background sounds.

The 3 Wishes Faery Fest is a family-friendly festival running from 20 to 22 June at Colliford Lake Park in Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. Highlights include a midsummer night's dream faery masquerade, a fantasy fairy fashion show and a lesson at fairy school as well as elfin-inspired music.

The Cork Midsummer Festival of the Senses is on from 15 June to 5 July with a mix of comedy, music, circus, dance, theatre and visual arts.

For beach babes and dudes, the Goldcoast Oceanfest is a surf and music festival based in Croyde, North Devon, running from 20 to 22 June. There will be live music and sponsored sporting events such as beach volleyball, mountain-biking and surfing.

The Herstmonceux Castle Estate in East Sussex is the venue for Global Fusion, an annual celebration of world music with family entertainment including storytelling, drumming and circus skills. This Summer's festival takes place between Friday 20 and Sunday 22 June.

A week later, one of Britain's most famous Summer festivals kicks off. Glastonbury takes place in Somerset between 27 and 29 June, billed this year as a 'Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts'. Music headliners are Kings of Leon, the Verve and Jay-Z.

Further afield, the Summer Solstice Festival in the City of Yellowknife, Canada will bring together different cultures in a free music and dance event across the weekend. The family-friendly festival features workshops, interactive educational activities and entertainment in order to promote cultural awareness and raise funds for non-profit groups in the area.

A novel midsummer concept is the Summer Sailstice, a global event where sailing enthusiasts from around the world register to sail in their local area on the Summer Solstice. Sailors, yacht racers and pleasure boaters across the globe are united in spirit on the longest sailing day of the year.

So whatever your style, the longest day is a sign that the summer has arrived, and that's something to celebrate.
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