sensual traditions of the longest day of the year

(CNN) — Call it love. Call it romance. Call it sensuality. Go ahead and call it old-fashioned lust if you like.

Call it what you want, but Midsummer 2021 is coming, and it has a history of stirring up hearts and libidos.

The longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere usually kicks off summer and, with it, harvest. So it should come as no surprise that the solstice is linked to fertility, both of the plant and human variety, in various destinations around the world.

READ: 5 fantastic places to visit in June

CNN Travel explores some of those old sexy summer traditions. But first, we will take a look at some of the scientific aspects.

Summer Solstice: Questions and Answers

Question: I like the precision. When exactly is the summer solstice in 2021?

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

It will happen at exactly 03:32 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Monday, June 21. Your time zone in relation to UTC will determine when the solstice will occur for you. When it is 03:32 UTC this is the local time in some selected places around the world:

  • Tokyo, Japan: 12:32 pm on Monday
  • Bangkok, Thailand: 10:32 am on Monday
  • Kolkata, India: 9:02 am on Monday
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates: 7:32 am on Monday
  • Istanbul, Turkey: 6:32 am on Monday
  • Krakow, Poland: 5:32 am on Monday
  • Lisbon, Portugal: 4:32 am on Monday
  • Dakar, Senegal: 3:32 am del lunes
  • Rio de Janeiro: 12:32 am on Monday
  • Philadelphia: 11:32 pm Sunday
  • Mexico City: 10:32 pm on Sunday
  • Calgary, Canada: 9:32 pm Sunday
  • San Francisco: 8:32 pm Sunday
  • Honolulu: 5:32 pm Sunday

The TimeandDate website has a useful tool that allows you to calculate the time where you live.

Question: Is it the longest day of the year and does it occur all over the world?

Answer: No. 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 about to start three months of winter.

And the differences in the amount of daylight become very dramatic as you get closer to the poles and away from the equator. For example, residents of northern St. Petersburg, Russia, will have sunrise at 3:35 a.m. and nearly 19 hours of daylight. Even the night doesn’t get so dark.

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

As for those poor Antarctic penguins protecting their eggs, if they could talk, they could tell you a lot about how to live in 24-hour darkness.

Question: Why don’t we only have 12 hours of daylight throughout the year?

Answer: People all over the planet actually received almost equal doses day and night during the spring equinox. But the amount of sunlight we receive in the Northern Hemisphere has increased daily since then. Why?

That’s because the Earth is aligned on an axis, an imaginary pole that runs through the center of our planet. But this axis is tilted, at an angle of 23.5 degrees.

«How the Earth orbits the sun [una vez al año], its inclined axis always points in the same direction. Then, during the year, different parts of the Earth receive the direct rays of the sun ”, according to NASA.

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

At that time, “the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, which is 23.5 ° north latitude, and runs through Mexico, the Bahamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India and southern China,” according to the Service. National Weather.

Sensual Traditions: Summer Solstice in Sweden

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

Their traditions include dancing around a maypole, a symbol that some see as phallic. They also feast on herrings and copious amounts of vodka (whether that’s romantic or not is probably a matter of personal preference).

“Many children are born nine months after the summer solstice in Sweden,” Jan-Öjvind Swahn, a 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 photographs of people who drink to the point where they can no longer go on, ”Swahn said.

While libations influenced the subsequent baby boom, Swahn noted that even without alcohol, the summer solstice is a time rich in romantic rituals.

“There used to be a tradition among single girls that if they ate something very salty during the summer solstice, or collected several different kinds of flowers and put them under their pillow when they slept, they would dream of their future husbands,” she said.

Pagan rites in Greece

There is a similar mythology about dreaming about the future spouse in some parts of Greece. There, as in many European countries, the pagan solstice was co-opted by Christianity and renamed St. John’s Day. Even so, in many towns in the north of the country, ancient rites are still celebrated.

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

All the single women in the village place a personal belongings in the pot and leave it under a fig tree overnight. So, according to folklore, the magic of the day imbues objects with prophetic powers, and the girls in question dream of their future husbands.

The next day, all the women in the village get together and take turns removing objects and reciting couplets with rhymes that are intended to predict the romantic fate of the owner of the object. These days, however, the festival is more of an excuse for the women’s community to exchange obscene jokes.

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

Anyone who succeeds in jumping the flames three times must have a wish granted. Fanariotou said that the festival often results in a coupling.

“It is a good time to meet someone, because all the young people in town go and it is a good opportunity to socialize. Besides, all men like to show off and make as much fire as they can to jump.

A Slavic Cupid

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

“It was once believed that the Kupala night was a time for people to fall in love, and that those who celebrated it would be happy and prosperous all year long,” recalls Agnieszka Bigaj from the Polish tourist office.

It used to be that young, single women floated wreaths in the river where eager singles on the other side tried to catch them, he adds.

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

Neighboring Ukraine celebrates Kupala Night on July 7, according to If you think that is a bit far from the solstice of June 21, it is because of the discrepancies between the modern Gregorian calendar that most of the world now uses and the old Julian calendar.

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

During the celebration, people can sing about love and romance. Some women may wear traditional clothing with embroidery and a flower crown on their head.

Traditions in China

It is not just European cultures that have commemorated the summer solstice throughout the centuries.

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

It was called “chaojie” and “women gave each other fans and colored bags. The fans could help them not feel so hot and the bags were to scare away the mosquitoes and make them smell good.

The people of Mohe, China’s northernmost city in Heilongjiang province, can enjoy nearly 17 hours of daylight, and the sunrise comes at 3:23 am.


One of the most notable solstice celebrations in the world has traditionally taken place in Stonehenge, England, where thousands of people generally gather each year. Like many other events in 2020, they had to change traditions due to the pandemic.

There were high hopes that 2021 would be different. But the covid-19 restrictions will remain in effect on June 21. So once again, the English Heritage Society will host a live broadcast. You will be able to see the sunset on June 20 and the sunrise on June 21 at the site of these precisely arranged giant stones.

And speaking of a short night. Sunset on June 20 is 9:26 pm local time, and sunrise is 4:52 am local time very early, so be sure to use an online time zone converter if you want to see one or both.

Stonehenge, dating back to Druid and pagan times, has a mysterious charm.

“All Druid rituals have an element of fertility, and the solstice is no exception,” King Arthur Pendragon, a high-ranking archdruid, told CNN. “We celebrate the union of the male and female deities, the Sun and the Earth, on the longest day of the year.”

This story was originally published in 2013 and was updated in 2021.

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