A Solstice Celebration
On this day, June 21st, the sun will reach its zenith in the sky. The amount of daylight in a day has reached its maximum and the sun is at the peak of its power. This is known as midsummer, or summer solstice. Litha is a pagan holiday that celebrates the summer solstice as well as the life and warmth that the sun provides to us all.
Pagan and other earth-centered religions believe that during Litha the goddess is heavily pregnant and ready to bring forth her bounty, much like the earth is ready to yield its harvest. The god is believed to be at the apex of his manhood, symbolized by the sun's position in the sky. Litha celebrates the abundance of Earth, fertility, and the beauty of nature in full bloom. It is a time of strong magic, and the veil between worlds is thin, making the realms and powers beyond more accessible.
Litha is celebrated around June 20th; the exact day varies according to the Earth's cycle around the sun. In the folklore calendar, summer begins on Beltane (May 1st), ends on Lughnassadh (August 1st), with summer solstice in-between the two marking mid-summer.
History of Litha
In the past, many civilizations and agricultural societies have marked the high point of summer in some way. In the northern hemisphere this comes around June 21; December 21st in the southern hemisphere. These are the longest days of the year, and the world solstice comes from Latin solstitium, which means "sun stands still."
Some sources detail the ancient Celts celebrating this time of year. There are also chronicles from early Christian monks that describe midsummer celebrations including hilltop bonfires.
The name "Litha" is thought to have been brought by the Saxons when they first arrived in the British Isles. They called the month of June "Aerra Litha." They also celebrated with bonfires that symbolically meant triumph of light over darkness. Midsummer was a special time to the Nordic and Scandinavian peoples, as the almost endless hours of light during June were a welcome contrast to the perpetual darkness during winter.
Summer Solstice Celebrations
Traditional ways of celebrating Litha include bonfires, fire-leaping, all-night vigils, singing, and feasting. You may celebrate in any way you want, but the focus is usually always the power of the sun. Colors associated with this time are green, gold, yellow and red. Celebrants may decorate their homes and gardens with various crafts in these colors.
Other ways of celebrating include making divining rods, herb gathering, handfastings, and dowsing rods and wands. One tradition involves women walking naked through the gardens to insure fertility, but this may not always be the most appropriate way to celebrate.
Of course, you don't have to be Pagan or Wiccan to celebrate midsummer. No matter what we believe, the seasons affect us all equally. As brothers and sisters on this planet, we can together celebrate the warmth and bounty of summer.