The first official day of summer — and longest day of the year — means different things to different people. For some, it marks the start of summer Fridays at the office and sports leagues with friends. For others, it induces nostalgia of running around barefoot and catching fireflies during summer vacation.
For Wiccans, and those of other nature-based faiths, the longest day of the year is known as the summer solstice or Litha — a spiritual celebration of the sun’s power. This is when the sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky, indicating the start of the astronomical summer and entrance into Cancer season. If you live in the northern hemisphere, this takes place on Sunday, June 20 of this year — and you’ll want to soak up all of its potent and vibrant energy.
What the Summer Solstice Means:
The summer solstice is the peak of the waxing year, where the sun is at its fullest expression, according to Gabriela Herstik, a practicing witch and the author of the guided journal “Embody Your Magick.” She notes that in Wicca and other Pagan traditions, it marks a time when the Holly King (God of Winter or the Waning Year) defeats the Oak King (God of the Forest and the Waxing Year), indicating that nighttime will gradually grow.
“This has historically been a day when solar power is honored and exalted when we get to connect to the revitalizing and reenergizing spirit of the sun,” Herstik says.
Many spiritual practitioners who abide by nature and the seasons hold this as a sacred time to celebrate the life-giving star known as the sun. “The energy is intoxicating and vibrant, warm and fertile,” Herstik continues, adding “It’s like an energetic big bang.”
While the winter solstice or Yule is a time to turn inwards and reflect on the shadow self, the summer solstice emphasizes joy, abundance, and the connection of all living things. Traditionally, it’s celebrated as a fire festival worshipping the strength of the sun through singing and dancing as a way to elevate the energy, according to Shawn Engle, an author and the founder of Witchy Wisdoms.
There are many other ways that the summer solstice is honored across cultures. In Celtic tradition, Engle notes that practitioners honor the Oak King by making a headdress out of oak leaves or placing them on their altar as a way to symbolize the waning of light. Another way people traditionally celebrate, according to Herstik, is by making bread and sweets, which are left on the altar as offerings to the earth, sun, and faeries who are the guardians of nature.
While each tradition is unique and sacred, there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate the solstice. In fact, you can create your own traditions by using this time to connect, express gratitude, and check in with yourself. With a little help from our two Wiccan experts, here are a few simple ways you can take advantage of the extra sunlight.
How you can celebrate the summer solstice:
An easy way to honor the solstice? Turn to your closet. Just as you might wear green on St. Patrick’s day or red, white, and blue on Independence Day, you can get in the solstice spirit by coordinating your outfit with the sun’s vibrant colors.
“The color associated with the sun is yellow, and its metal is gold, so I always recommend wearing yellow and gold, or even orange, as a way to draw solar energy into the self,” Herstik says.
The sun is at its strongest during the summer solstice, and it can be both energizing and intense. Meditation is a wonderful tool to use as you soak up its power and practice presence.
“Do a meditation under the sun’s rays and let the warmth wash over you,” Engle says. “Connecting with nature in this way is incredibly rewarding.”
Whether that’s through prayer, walking, or a special ritual, there are many different ways you can meditate. One way is to focus and feel into your senses: Feel your feet on the grass, notice the smell of the flowers, and the sound of the rustling trees.
Do something that brings you joy.
Remember all those things you have on your bucket list? Now’s a great time to do them. Build a sandcastle, take a different hiking route, make up a TikTok dance, or explore the new town you’ve been wanting to visit. The summer solstice calls on you to follow your spirit into what brings you ravishing and unapologetic joy. If low-key is more your vibe, enjoy a leisurely breakfast outside, tend to your garden, and bask in the sun with a good playlist.
If you feel like many others who are “languishing” right now, perhaps you need to reconnect with what brings you joy. Try embracing your inner child by walking barefoot through a park, treating yourself to ice cream, or drawing with sidewalk chalk. These nostalgic activities may spark something within you.
When the world is bursting with lush color and the sun is beaming, you want to soak up every bit of it that you can. While solo adventures are great, the summer solstice is also a great opportunity to connect with old and new friends.
From picnics to bonfires and barbecues, there are plenty of outdoor activities you can partake in with a group or one or two people. Turn your phone off, experience being present, and notice the warm energy that radiates from nature and one another.
After frolicking in a field or sinking your toes in the sand, bring a little piece of nature home with you. Whether you collect sand dollars from the beach, purchase flowers from the farmer’s market, or sift through leaves from your backyard, adding an element of summer into your home can give your space a vibrant refresh.
If you’re inspired to create an altar of your own, you can easily create a sacred space within your home and shower it with offerings that are personally meaningful. “Since my matron goddess Freyja is of the Norse tradition, I offer honey and oak to my altar in celebration of the solstice,” Engle says.
Offerings are a way of expressing gratitude and sharing the bounty you’ve received to create a relationship with the spirit of the solstice. As long as it’s personally and spiritually significant to you, anything goes.
Give to your loved ones.
Another form of offerings during the solstice is the act of giving to loved ones. This can be done through gifting friends and family with delicious food, drinks, or homemade treats. You can also pay compliments, express gratitude, or lend a helping hand to someone in need as a way to keep love flowing.
“Setting the intention of sharing sustenance as an act of connection, community, pleasure, and warmth, transforms the party into something akin to a ritual,” Herstik says.
Check in with yourself.
The summer solstice is playful, electrifying, and full of activities. While you’re out and about experiencing its fullness, take some time to check in with yourself, too. Some suggestions for doing so include journaling, pulling tarot cards, or observing what you feel and need. After all, any spiritual practice is a way to strengthen connection, which begins from within.
“As you enjoy your day, check in with yourself and hold the intention of honoring the summer solstice,” Herstik says. “This thread of magick will weave into your experience and make it more numinous, more powerful, and more meaningful.”