Ways to Celebrate the Summer Without a Crowd
More than just governments have shut down during the pandemic. I’ve yet to read of a single Pagan festival, shindig, or hootenanny that’s still going on this year despite the virus. Even Stonehenge is closed to visitors, with Britain asking folks to just stay home and enjoy the sacred site online. This is for the best, really; the virus is still raging, especially in the U.K. and the U.S., and no amount of mead or fire dancing is worth needing a lung transplant.
Holidays are an especially social time for many Pagans, as they are for most faiths, so some of us may be feeling awkward or uncertain during this time. Will it really feel like Midsummer without all the social events we’re accustomed to, celebrating all by yourself? It can!
Midsummer is, at its heart, a celebration of the height of the growing season (the “midsummer” if, as an ancient farmer, you just thought of the world in terms of “summer” and “winter”). Cultural practices varied from place to place, but if you have traditional “mundane” summer activities, it doesn’t take much to adjust them to get a distinctly Pagan-vibe going on. The important thing is that you celebrate seasonal activities, foods, and the gods and spirits.
Now, I live in the southern United States, so unless something is an online resource, I’m referencing the culture down here. Feel free to adjust for your part of the world or honor your ancestors this season and recreate some of their recipes and practices.
You Don’t Have to Farm or Live in the Country to Appreciate the Season
An excellent way of getting into the feel of bountiful summer is by making a flower crown for yourself. You can go down to a florist or store and pick up a bundle of blossoms to wrap with a bit of floral wire and tape, or you can pick some wild flowers growing around your home.
Consider also putting a few green-laden branches in your home in mason jars or vases. They don’t have to last long, just a few days, but they’ll remind you of what the earth is producing even if you’re stuck inside.
Do show your appreciation, whether it’s to the nature spirits or the gods, by scattering some birdseed outside or putting out a dish of water for passing butterflies, bees, and moths.
Food Can Make or Break a Celebration
What foods do you associate with summer? In my family, it’s anything that comes off a grill. For that distinctly American flavor, you can’t beat a burger and fries, but if you’re not a fan of thick burgers that almost demand a knife and fork, it’s time to try a smash burger. Best of all, as long as you have a flat pan or griddle, you can make a smash burger in your kitchen without needing an expensive grill.
We hand cut our fries using local potatoes from the farmer’s market, and we’ve found that the key to a really crisp fry that’s fluffy on the inside is soaking the cut fries in water for at least a half hour before we pat them dry and fry ’em up.
Fruit is summer’s way of making it up to us after baking us in hot, humid weather. A watermelon agua fresca is my favorite way of staying hydrated this time of the year. And wouldn’t you know it, watermelons are now in season!
In the evening, when the fireflies come out, it’s a perfect time to toss some peaches on the grill and finish them off with a drizzle of local honey and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Not only is this a tasty desert, but it supports the local orchards around here.
Whether you’re dining inside or out, you can try to give your eating space a “picnic vibe” by laying a colorful cloth down, slipping off your shoes, and stretching out on the ground to eat. Toss some throw pillows down if you like (especially if you’re on a hard floor), but either way there’s a lot to be said for eating in a no-fuss manner.
Everything that we make as part of our solstice celebration is nature-friendly and safe for animals to consume, which makes it ideal to set out in a secluded section of our yard for the local nature spirits. We also take portions of the food and lay it out on the shrines as offerings to the gods before we serve ourselves, as thanks for giving us enough to get by.
Don’t Neglect the Night (or the Fae) on This Solar Holy Day
For many of us, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the first introduction to connections between the summer solstice and the Good Folk. Now is an excellent time to watch it, right after you put out an offering of milk, butter, and bread for the fae.
Place fairy lights or tealights into clear jars and glasses, and put them out on your porch or on your windowsill. Let these tiny “bonfires” burn away the bad luck that has plagued us all in 2020, and invite in some good cheer to take its place.
May your midsummer be a merry one, and may the second half of your year be more uneventful and restive than the first.
[Ashley Nicole Hunter sits on the board of directors for Bibliotheca Alexandrina and has been published in a few reputable (and otherwise) publications.]