The summer solstice, or the longest day of the year, was celebrated by ancient cultures across the world, including the Ancient Greeks.
In fact, celebrations of the longest day of the year go all the way back to the Stone Age, and human beings have been organizing parties, dances, and festivals in honor of the event for millennia.
The summer solstice refers to the moment when the North Pole leans closest to the sun, making it look like the sun is at its highest point, and it marks the longest day of the year.
The celestial event was extremely significant for the Ancient Greeks, who considered the summer solstice to be the first day of the calendar, although calendars varied across the country.
Ancient Greeks, much like other peoples, celebrated the summer solstice
Greeks held many festivals in honor of the event, such as Kronia, a celebration of the harvest god Cronus. During this festival, the usually strict social order of ancient Greek society was upended, as slaves took part in the celebration, and were even served by their masters.
In addition to the Kronia festival, the summer solstice was also used as a marker for the arrival of the Olympic Games, which took place one month after the longest day of the year.
Ancient Greeks also celebrated the resurrection of the Daughter of Demeter, Persephone, and glorified Dionysus, the liberator of human souls. The ancient Greeks used the cultivation of wheat to symbolize the cultivation of the soul, it is noted.
The Ancient Romans also celebrated the summer solstice with a festival honoring the goddess of the hearth, Vesta. During the celebration, called the Vestalia, Romans sacrificed unborn calves. Additionally, married women, who were traditionally barred from entering the holy space, were allowed to enter the temple of the Vestal Virgins on this day.
Apart from the Mediterranean cultures, many Asian and other European groups considered the date extremely important. For the Vikings and Scandinavians, the summer solstice, or Midsommar, was the day that people would meet to discuss important matters in the community. Massive bonfires were common at this time.
In fact, bonfires were popular parts of celebrations across many European countries and remain an important part of contemporary celebrations of the summer solstice.
In China, the summer and winter solstices were celebrated in balanced, contrasting ways. The longest day of the year celebrated Yin, the feminine, and the earth while the shortest day of the year involved honoring Yang, the masculine, and the celestial world.