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10 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, June 21 marks the longest day of the year and heralds the start of our beloved summer season. The summer solstice presents another opportunity for families to celebrate, bond and think about adding new rituals to their lives.

In The Book of New Family Traditions, author Meg Cox says, “Rituals and celebrations help kids feel connected and valued.” She emphasizes that parents who practice rituals routinely and reliably “are sending a message very loudly that their kids aren’t just a bothersome distraction from plowing through the to-do list but are the central focus of life.” What could be more fitting than celebrating with our children on a day that reminds us how central the sun is to all our lives?

Use the following list of suggestions as a stepping-off point to spark your own solstice ritual. With the solstice falling on a weekend this year, you will be able to let the children stay up a bit later to participate:

1. Plan a scavenger hunt for all ages. For smaller children, number or alphabetize clues leading to treats and for some fun summer supplies. Consider sunglasses, sunscreen, bug catchers, coupons for an ice cream outing on the next hot day or glow-in-the-dark necklaces. For tweens and teens, try a homemade coupon for a special privilege. Summer can be a good time to practice new skills and boundaries.

2. Eat outside so that you are tuning into nature on this special day. Although a back yard barbecue is great, a change of scenery can add to the festive feel. Pack a picnic dinner and head to a local park.

3. Try a family sun salutation to greet the sun. A sun salute is a great overall body stretch for the whole family and kids will be amused by a group downward dog. If there are no yogis in your house, check out YouTube or google a beginner’s version.

4. Make a wish. The summer solstice can be a time to reflect on what has been happening in your life since the winter solstice back in December. Is there something you would like to invite into your life? Write a wish down and burn it, sending the wish into the universe. This is fun to do outside but if the weather does not cooperate, there are wishing papers that you can light inside. They rise and turn quickly to ash.

5. Start some summer resolutions. Take your lead from the movie Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer and see if you and your family can develop a ‘thrill point list’ for summer. What could you add to your list to make the summer of 2014 an exciting summer for everyone? Pull out the poster board and markers, and let the creativity flow.

6. Stay up after dark and star-gaze together. Contact your local observatory to see if they have special public events. For novice star searches, borrow a book from the library to help you determine what you are seeing or use a free star-finding app such as Stellarium or SkyORB.

7. Involve water in your ritual. To mark the arrival of summer, can you go swimming? Or if the water is still too cold, can you all dip your toes in? How about a family water gun or water balloon battle? Your willingness to embrace a little mess can be a signal that the more relaxed summer is here.

8. Get your hands dirty and embrace the earth. It is not too late to plant. Consider planting in your vegetable garden for a Fall harvest or add an annual to your flower garden to mark the occasion.

9. Bury any negatives. Has anyone in the family been struggling with something, like a habit they want to leave behind? Write down any behaviors or experiences you want to put behind you and bury them. Use the solstice as a restart button.

10. Invite special friends to join your celebration. Their presence will add to the joyous feel of your event.

When planning your festivities, try to capture the ‘we always.’ Kids love the tradition of we always eat or do a certain thing on a special day. Maybe you will always start solstice with a pancake breakfast. Ask your children for suggestions and they will likely come up with some fun options; the more unique to your family, the better.

Sue is a health and wellness writer, and mother of two. She loves finding new traditions to invite into her family.

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