The summer solstice, also known as Mid Summers Day, is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is a time of celebration in many cultures around the world. In Wales, there are a number of different ways to celebrate the summer solstice, each with its own unique history and historical significance.
Celtic Origins: The earliest known summer solstice celebrations in Wales can be traced back to the Celtic peoples who inhabited the region in pre-Roman times. The ancient Celts, who inhabited Wales, celebrated the Summer Solstice as a time of abundance, fertility, and the triumph of light over darkness. They believed that during this time, the veil between the worlds was thinnest, allowing for increased spiritual connection.
Druidic Influence: Druids, the spiritual leaders of the Celts, played a crucial role in the Summer Solstice celebrations. They performed rituals, lit bonfires, and gathered at sacred sites, such as Stonehenge and other stone circles, to mark the occasion. These rituals often involved the lighting of bonfires, the gathering of herbs and plants, and the making of offerings to the gods.
Summer Solstice - Modern Day Celebrations
Bryn Celli Ddu
One of the most popular places to celebrate the summer solstice in Wales is at Bryn Celli Ddu, a Neolithic tomb on the island of Anglesey. The tomb is aligned so that the sun shines directly into the inner chamber at sunrise on the summer solstice. Stunningly, for only 20 minutes each year, a beam of sunlight aligns exactly with the opening to the chamber. This is a magical time to visit Bryn Celli Ddu, and many people come to experience the power of the solstice at this ancient site.
Another traditional way to celebrate the summer solstice in Wales is on Gathering Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday after the summer solstice. On Gathering Day, people would gather to collect herbs and other plants that were believed to have special powers. Placing a sprig of mistletoe under your pillow on the summer solstice will, according to Welsh traditions, will bring you prophetic dreams. They would also feast on fresh fruits and vegetables, and dance around bonfires to celebrate the longest day of the year.
St. John's Day (Gŵyl Ifan Ganol Hâf)
The summer solstice also coincides with St. John's Day, which is celebrated on June 24th. St. John's Day is a Christian holiday that commemorates the birth of John the Baptist. In Wales, St. John's Day is often celebrated with bonfires, feasting, and traditional music and dancing.
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