Honoring the longest day of the year with dancing, feasting, and special traditions has been a part of European culture since ancient times. Often combined with religious beliefs, the ceremonies and traditions were a way to dispel evil, attract a future mate, protect livestock, and even peer into the future to see what was coming.
Nowadays the Summer Solstice is a time of feasting and revelry set outside in the lavish warmth and abundance of the start of summer. Here are a few ideas to help you organize your own Sparkling Summer Solstice on Midsummer's Eve.
Invite your guests to join you in your backyard, a friend's field, or woodsy campsite. Decorate with flowers, herbs, branches, and leaves -- anything that reminds you of nature's bounty -- and make guests comfortable outdoors. In ancient times it was believed that herbs and healing plants picked on Midsummer's Eve were at the very height of their healing power, and draughts or salves made from them would be especially effective.
Light a Bonfire
Bonfires are an essential part of the Summer Solstice celebration. The large pyres were believed to drive away evil spirits. Some traditionalists make their fire small to begin with, and all participants take turns leaping over the fire to ensure protection for the rest of the year. Today, s'mores might be the party game du jour. Whatever you decide, make sure the fire is always attended so that no accidents mar the festivities.
Dress the Part
In Northern Europe, white garments are the costume of choice for the Summer Solstice. Flowing sundresses or trousers, shorts, and shirts are great options. Sure, they'll get dirty from wood ash and dancing in the grass, but that's all part of the fun. Pair this loose dress code with white plates and white linens for the tables.
Make Your Own Head Wreath
Traditionally, men and women made floral wreaths to wear on their heads during the celebration. To do this at your party, invite your guests to come early and make their own wreath. Collect silk or real flowers, herbs, leaves, and vines and let everyone throw caution to the wind in seeing who can make the most opulent, or outrageous, head wreath.
Raise a Glass
Alcoholic beverages are a welcome part of the Summer Solstice feasting. In Finland they make a homemade fizzy lemon wine to mark the occasion, but sparkling wine is the Plum Deluxe alternative and a nice way to keep it simple for the night. Choose something crisp and fruit-forward, such as a Spanish cava (our sponsor, Gloria Ferrer is a great choice!)
Keep plenty on ice for the grown ups, and lots of fizzy lemonade or ginger beer for the younger set.
Don't Forget the Garlic
One of many quirky Summer Solstice traditions is the practice of knocking one another over the head with heads of fresh garlic to ensure good luck in the year to come. Supply a basket of the pungent bulbs for enthusiastic well-wishers. Oddly enough, garlic is a good pairing for sparkling wine; try these recipes for your party menu: crock pot garlicky ribs or some sun dried tomato tapanade with homemade garlic breadsticks (you can make them with frozen bread dough).
There are many fun traditions to choose from for your party. If anyone has pets, have them collect tree branches to hang above their pen or cage to keep them safe. Decorate a May Pole and teach everyone the traditional way to dance around it. Encourage everyone to share songs, stories, or poems around the fire. And try your best to stay up all night and watch the sunrise to provide good health for your guests all year long.
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