Summer solstice 2021: sensual traditions on the longest day of the year

Call it romanticism. Call it sensuality. Heck, call it old-fashioned lust if you like.

But whatever you call it, the summer solstice for 2021 is coming – and it has a history of stirring our hearts and our libidos.

The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere marks the start of the official summer calendar and with it the bounty of the harvest. So it’s no surprise that the solstice is linked to fertility – of both plant and human variety – in destinations around the world.

CNN Travel explores some of these long-standing sultry summer traditions. But first, let’s take a look at some of the science.

Summer solstice: questions and answers

Question: I like the precision. Exactly when is the summer solstice in 2021?

Reply: Sorry to complicate things for you, but the date you celebrate this year depends on which side of the planet you live on.

This will happen precisely at 03:32 UTC (Universal Coordinated Time) on Monday, June 21. Your time zone relative to UTC determines the date of the solstice for you. Here’s how 03:32 UTC aligns with local time in some parts of the world:

– Tokyo: 12:32 p.m. Monday
– Bangkok, Thailand: 10:32 a.m. on Monday
– Kolkata, India: 9:02 am Monday
– Dubai: 7:32 a.m. Monday
– Istanbul: 6:32 am Monday
– Krakow, Poland: 5:32 a.m. Monday
– Lisbon, Portugal: 4:32 am Monday
– Dakar, Senegal: 3:32 a.m. Monday
– Rio de Janeiro: Monday at 00:32
– Philadelphia: 11:32 p.m. Sunday
– Mexico: 10:32 p.m. Sunday
– Calgary, Canada: 9:32 p.m. Sunday
– San Francisco: 8:32 p.m. Sunday
– Honolulu: 5:32 p.m. Sunday

The TimeandDate website has a handy tool for you to calculate the time at your place of residence.

Question: It’s the longest day of the year – and it happens all over the world?

Reply: Nope. It is the longest day only in the northern hemisphere. It is the shortest day of the year south of the equator. Residents of the southern hemisphere – in places like Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand – are set to welcome three winter months.

And the differences in the amount of daylight you get get very dramatic the closer you get to the poles and further away from the equator. For example, residents of northern St. Petersburg, Russia, will have a sunrise at 3:35 a.m. and almost 7 p.m. of light. Even the night does not get so dark.

In Singapore, a city-state in the northern hemisphere but barely above the equator, people barely notice the difference. They get an additional 11 minutes of daylight.

As for those poor Antarctic penguins guarding their eggs – if they could talk, they could tell you a lot about living in the 24 hour darkness.

Question: Why don’t we just have 12 hours of daylight all year round?

Reply: People all over the planet actually received almost equal doses daytime and nighttime during the spring equinox. But the amount of sunlight we receive in the northern hemisphere has been steadily increasing every day since. Why?

This is because the Earth is aligned with an axis, an imaginary pole passing through the center of our planet. But this axis tilts – at an angle of 23.5 degrees.

“As the earth revolves around the sun [once each year], its tilted axis always points in the same direction. Thus, throughout the year, different parts of the Earth receive direct sunlight, ”according to NASA.

When the sun reaches its peak in the northern hemisphere, it is the summer solstice.

At that time, “the sun was directly above the Tropic of Cancer, located at 23.5 ° north latitude, and traversed Mexico, the Bahamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India and the south. of China, ”according to the National Weather Service.

Sensual traditions: the summer solstice in Sweden

Now let’s turn our attention to what is really in our heads: the romantic and sexy side of the solstice. We will start in Sweden.

Their traditions include dancing around a pole – a symbol some consider phallic. They also feast on herring and copious amounts of vodka (whether romantic or not is likely a matter of personal preference).

“Many children are born nine months after the summer solstice in Sweden,” Jan-Öjvind Swahn, Swedish ethnologist and author of several books on the subject, told CNN before his death in 2016.

“Drinking is the most typical tradition of the summer solstice. There are historical images of people drinking to the point where they can’t go on, ”Swahn said.

While libations have a part in the baby boom that followed, Swahn pointed out that even without alcohol, midsummer is a time rich in romantic rituals.

“There was a tradition among single girls, that if they ate something very salty in the middle of summer, or if they picked up several kinds of flowers and put them under their pillow when they slept, they dreamed of their future husbands, ”he said. .

Pagan rites in Greece

There is a similar mythology about the dream of a future spouse in some parts of Greece. There, as in many European countries, the pagan solstice was co-opted by Christianity and renamed Saint John. However, in many villages in the north of the country, the ancient rites are still celebrated.

One of the oldest rituals is called Klidonas, and it involves local virgins who collect water from the sea.

The single women of the village all place a personal item in the pot and leave it under a fig tree overnight, where – folklore says it – the magic of the day imbues the items with prophetic powers, and the girls in question dream of their futures. husbands.

The next day, all the women of the village meet and, in turn, take out objects and recite rhymed couplets intended to predict the romantic fortune of the owner of the object. These days, however, the festival is more of a pretext for the women’s community to trade debauchery jokes.

“In my village, older women always seem to invent the dirtiest rhymes,” says Eleni Fanariotou, who filmed the custom. Later in the day, the sexes mingle and take turns jumping over a bonfire.

Anyone who manages to jump over the flames three times is supposed to have a wish granted. Fanariotou said the festival often results in pairing.

“It’s a good time to meet someone, because all the young people in the village go there, and it’s a good opportunity to socialize. Plus, all men love to show off and make the biggest fire possible to jump through.

A Slavic Cupid

In Eastern Europe, the summer solstice is linked to the day of Ivan Kupala, a holiday with romantic connotations for many Slavs (“kupala” is derived from the same word as “cupid”). It’s also called Kupala Night (love doesn’t stick to a strict schedule, apparently).

“It was once believed that Kupala night was the occasion for people to fall in love and that those who celebrated it would be happy and prosperous all year round,” recalls Agnieszka Bigaj of the Polish tourism office.

In the old days, young unmarried women would float wreaths of flowers in the river where the impatient bachelors on the other side tried to catch the flowers. She adds.

According to Polish folklore, the man and woman in question would become a couple. Bonfires are also an important feature of the holiday, and it is traditional for a couple to jump through the flames together while holding hands – if they don’t let go, their love is said to last.

Neighboring Ukraine celebrates Kupala Night on July 7, according to If you think it’s a bit far from the June 21 solstice, it’s because of the discrepancies between the modern Gregorian calendar currently used by most countries around the world and the ancient Julian calendar.

Some Eastern Orthodox churches and holidays still operate according to the old Julian calendar, which was established by none other than Julius Caesar himself. On the Julian calendar, Kupala is June 24. But converted into Gregorian, it falls on July 7. Here is a handy online Julian / Gregorian converter.

During the celebration, people could sing about love and romance. Some women may wear traditional clothing with embroidery and a wreath of flowers on the head.

Traditions in China

It is not only European cultures that have marked the summer solstice over the centuries.

Records from the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279) indicate that officials could have three days off during the summer solstice, according to

It was called “chaojie” and “the women gave each other colorful fans and bags. Fans could help them not to get too hot and the sachets were meant to repel mosquitoes and make them smell sweet.

Residents of Mohe – China’s northernmost town in Heilongjiang Province – enjoy nearly 17 hours of daylight, with sunrise at 3:23 a.m.


One of the most remarkable solstice celebrations in the world has traditionally been held at Stonehenge in England, where thousands of people typically gather every year. Like many other events in 2020, they had to change traditions because of the pandemic.

Hopes were high 2021 would be different. But the Covid-19 restrictions will still be in place on June 21. Again, the English Heritage Society is broadcasting live. You will be able to admire the sunset on June 20 and the sunrise on June 21 at the site of these giant stones arranged with precision.

And talk about a short night. The sunset for June 20 is at 9:26 p.m. local time, and the sunrise will start very early at 4:52 a.m. local time, so be sure to use an online time zone converter if you want to watch either. both.

Dating back to the days of the druids and pagans, Stonehenge has a mysterious feel.

“All Druidic rituals have an element of fertility, and the solstice is no exception,” King Arthur Pendragon, a senior Arch Druid, told CNN. “We celebrate the union of male and female deities – the sun and the earth – on the longest day of the year.”

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