This is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and has been celebrated for thousands of years. Solstice actually means a stopping or standing still of the sun. Many different cultures and religions have been fascinated by the sun or have worshipped it throughout history as it is the time when the winter snow has melted, the trees produce fruit, flowers are blooming and food is easier to find. Celts celebrated summer solstice with bonfires which they believed added to the sun's energy. The feast of St John the Baptist, and the festival of Li (the Chinese goddess of light) are also celebrated at the end of June.
For Pagans, summer solstice is very important as they believe this is the time when the Goddess is at her most powerful and it is a time to celebrate growth and life. Pagans believe this time of year marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and that their union is the force which creates the harvest fruits.
In ancient China, summer solstice ceremonies celebrated the earth, the feminine and the yin forces. In ancient Sweden, a midsummer tree was put up and decorated in each town and the villagers would dance around it. Today in the UK, thousands of people (Pagan and non-Pagan) visit ancient religious sites such as Stonehenge and dance, play music and drums, and light bonfires during the night. When the sun rises, chants and prayers are performed. Glastonbury Festival happens in the UK around the time of the summer solstice.