How to celebrate the Summer Solstice the Irish way
Life & Style

How to celebrate the Summer Solstice the Irish way

JUNE 21 is the Summer Solstice when Britain and Ireland will enjoy 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight on what is the longest day of the year.

But what exactly is Summer Solstice? And why do Irish people go to the Hill of Tara to celebrate it?

Here’s everything you need to know about an Irish Summer Solstice...

What is the Summer Solstice?

In Ireland and Britain, the Summer Solstice – also known as Midsummer – traditionally takes falls on June 21 each year.

It is the longest day of the year, i.e. when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere.

The winter solstice is the complete opposite, i.e. when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted furthest away from the son – hence the shortest day of the year.

What’s the history?

In ancient pagan times in Ireland, the Summer Solstice symbolised that the power of the sun was at its highest and was believed to be a sacred time.

Held sacred by people from the Neolithic era, the Hill of Tara was believed by worshippers to be a ‘homeplace’ of the gods and an entrance to the world of eternal joy.

World heritage site Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England also has a similar pagan origin and attracts thousands on the Summer Solstice each year.

How do you celebrate it?

Every year on June 21, hundreds of Irish people flock to the Hill in Co. Meath to mark the day and watch the sunrise.

Many towns and cities have 'Midsummer Carnivals' with fairs, concerts and fireworks either on or on the weekend nearest to the Solstice.

Midsummer bonfires have also been a tradition in Ireland for hundreds of years. The tradition lives on in Ireland today with a few restrictions on times of day when bonfires are allowed.

In rural spots particularly to Ireland’s northwest, the bonfires are lit on hilltops. This tradition harks back to pagan times and is now associated with St. John's Night.

And finally, throughout Irish history the Summer Solstice has been associated with feasting – so make sure you get your grub.

What next?

The days will gradually get shorter and shorter after June 21 as we head back towards the colder months of the year.

But don’t worry, the dark evenings aren’t around the corner just yet.