June 28, 2023

Midsummer Solstice at Hunmanby Beach


Midsummer Solstice was celebrated in my country, Latvia, (as well as other places) well before Christianity made its waves across Europe. But eventually the actual celebration date was sort of merged with the Christian holiday of St. John's Day (24th June).

The most important things are connection to the nature and being with your community, whatever that may look like for each person. You can expect:

• Bonfires: People gather around large bonfires, which symbolize the sun, to welcome the longest day of the year and to ward off evil spirits. Some brave souls will attempt jumping over fires but not always the best idea, especially after partying for a while already.

• Wreath making: Women and girls create wreaths made of flowers and herbs, typically using birch branches as a base. For men, it's typically oak leaves, symbolizing strength.

• Folk songs and dances at family and community gatherings: From family-friendly festivities and across towns and cities to party goers blasting some good tunes and driving out to the countryside to celebrate.

• Traditional food: The ultimate combo is cheese with caraway seeds, meat, and beer.

• Midnight swim: Many Latvians believe that swimming in a river or a lake during the Midsummer night brings cleansing and healing.

Although we couldn't participate in any of these shenanigans here in the UK, at least not anywhere near us, we went on a little adventure ourselves on the morning of the 24th June, which was a Saturday. We stayed up all Friday night and set off at 2:30am Saturday morning to get to the beach in time for the 4:28am sunrise.

We had the beach all to ourselves—not a single soul around us. It was a bit more cloudy than we would've liked but we still caught those warm sunrise rays when clouds parted.

The light changed by the minute, which is why images look different from frame to frame. When the sun was up, it didn't feel like 5am at all. It was so warm and bright already, it felt more like a summer afternoon.

Needless to say, recovery over the weekend was well needed with lots of sleep to catch up with.