In certain cultures, the summer solstice, or midsummer, is met with specific rituals. We asked our tutors and other language experts to share some of the summer and midsummer traditions from their cultures.
“Traditionally in Ireland, St. John’s Eve (Oíche Fhéile Eoin) has been celebrated on 23 June, a date which coincides with summer solstice. On this night in parts of Ireland, bonfires are lit on hilltops. The purpose of this ritual is to invoke the blessing of God on the crops and involved music, dancing and storytelling. Sometimes feats of daring are undertaken, such as leaping over the bonfire.”
Spain and Latin America
“Summer (el verano) is a very important time of the year throughout Spain and Latin America. It coincides with the beginning of school vacation for all students. The beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere occurs around June 21st (el verano in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina is during our invierno or wintertime). The official welcome to summer in the Northern Hemisphere is celebrated on the eve of June 23rd with la Noche de San Juan (Saint John’s Eve). On this evening people light bonfires and celebrate well into the night. This tradition is alive and well in many places through Spain and Latin America, especially around the coast. In Puerto Rico, many people take to the beach with friends and family on that night. In addition to lighting fires, they walk backward into the water and dip into the ocean to fend off bad luck.”
“In Greece, summer is a big deal! Everyone is super excited, and summer plans usually involve visiting many islands (νησιά: nee-see-A). What is really popular are summer festivals, πανηγύρια ( pa-nee-GHEE-ria). Mid- August and particularly August 15th, it is a huge celebration all over Greece. We celebrate the Assumption of Virgin Mary. It is basically when Virgin Mary died and was assumed into heaven. We called της Παναγίας (tees pa-na-GHEE-as). The actual meaning is ” of the Holiest Saint”. Τα πανηγύρια have live music and a lot of dancing! Of course, wine, κρασί (kra-SEE) is abundant! Τα πανηγύρια finish το πρωί (to pro-EE= the morning). They last all νύχτα ( NEE-chta)! ”
“During a sizzling hot summer time in Korea, people, usually men, take a freezing cold outdoor shower. It is called 냉수마찰 (Naengsoo machal) Literally, 냉수 means cold water and 마찰 means hitting. In other words, hitting a body with cold water. People believe that this freezing cold shower brings a lot of health benefits. Men usually take a freezing cold shower with their pants on. People usually say “시원하다” (siwon hada) when taking this cold shower. ”
“Some popular summer activities in Egypt: Going to the summer resorts مصايف maSaayif along the coastal cities where people enjoy going to the beach, swimming سباحة sibaaHa and diving غوص ghawS. Many people also stay up late سهر sahar and spending time at cafés drinking cold drinks and smoking hookah شيشة shiisha. Young people go to the sporting clubs and organize soccer كرة القدمkurat alqadam competitions. Various musical performances عروض موسيقية xuruuD muusiiqiyya are held at an open air theaters. Some people go on picnics نزهات nuzuhaat on the banks of seas and rivers, or drink cold natural fruit juices and eating ice cream flavored with different, delicious and refreshing flavors. Social and family visits are always popular in the summer too.”
“花火Hanabi (fireworks) is one of the summer staples in Japan. During the months of July and August, firework shows and accompanying street fairs are held across the country. One of the oldest and largest firework shows is Sumida River Fireworks in Tokyo, where over 20 thousand fireworks are launched during the 90 minute show. The fireworks festival draws tens of thousands of people and many of them are dressed up in 浴衣yukata, which is an informal kind of kimono made of cotton.”
“Il Ferragosto” in Italy is a famous holiday that originated in Ancient Rome. Begun by the Emperor Augustus, the holiday celebrates the end of the hard work of the harvest (la fine dei faticosi lavori agricoli) and gives the people a well-deserved moment of rest (riposo). To this day, Italians celebrate Ferragosto on August 15, usually coinciding with a vacation at the beach (al mare) or with regional festivities such as the “sagre” and other cultural and artisanal activities. The most popular of these festivals and traditional events is surely the combination of pasta, sausage, and wine (pasta, salsiccia e vino) that becomes even more appealing under a beautiful starry Italian sky (un bellissimo cielo stellato italiano).
…And finally, Brazil, where it’s not summer yet, but they still have summer traditions in December:
“O verão no hemisfério sul, summer in the southern hemisphere, vai de 21 de dezembro a 20 de março, goes from December 21 to March 20. Summer in Brazil é quente durante o dia, is hot during the day, but it usually refresca à noite, cools down during the evenings. A costa brasileira tem quase oito mil quilômetros de extensão, the Brazilian coast is almost eight thousand kilometers (about five thousand miles) long, so as pessoas geralmente vão à praia, people tend to go to the beach. Brazilians who do not live along the coast gostam de alugar uma casa ou apartamento, like to rent a house or an apartment, acampar, camp or ficar em uma pousada, stay at a bed and breakfast at their favorite beach durante as férias de verão, during summer vacations. When not on vacation, some popular summer activities include brincar com o esguicho no quintal, play with a hose in the back yard, ir à sorveteria com os amigos, go to an ice-cream shop with friends or passear no shopping onde tem ar condicionado, hang out at the mall where there’s air conditioning.”
Want to learn more culture and vocabulary from these and other languages to celebrate midsummer? Check out our online language courses and get started learning now.