Easy Solstice Celebrations

Celebrating Solstices (and Equinoxes) is one of my favorite things to do with my kids. Studying seasonal rhythms and cycles is part of our everyday homeschool curriculum, and it doesn’t even feel like “learning” (which for young kids is when I think the very best learning happens!). Solstice celebrations are an important part of our outdoor family culture.

Solstice Celebrations
The whole family celebrating the Spring Equinox in 2020

We try to take as much learning as possible to the outdoors and trails, and solstice is of course no exception.

Looking for more outdoor education ideas? Check them out here!

Solstice Celebrations: Seasonal Sunset Hiking Tradition

Our family started a tradition a few years ago of hiking the same trail at sunset for each solstice and equinox celebration. We picked a trail close to our house so it’s convenient, and one that has a great view of the path of the sun. It’s a short and sweet trail too, so we can make it down quickly after sunset.

Solstice Celebrations
Short break during last year’s Summer Solstice hike. He’s still waking up…

We observe the differences in the time the sun sets, the temperature, the angle of the sun. Observations can be recorded in our nature journals.

We live in Alaska, so the difference in sun set time throughout the year is drastic. Of course kids sort of recognize this, and may notice that in the winter it’s dark when they go to bed and in the summer it is not.

But since the change is gradual they may not remember that quite as clearly they do when we do these hikes 4 times a year and they discuss how summer solstice sunset is in the middle of the night and winter solstice sunset is before dinner!

Rock hopping during the autumnal equinox in 2019

Our summer solstice hike is a midnight hike. They go to sleep a bit earlier than usual, and are woken up at 10pm to start the hike and watch the sun set just before midnight.

Solstice Celebrations
Zane enjoying the thrill of the Land of the Midnight Sun in 2019

On winter solstice we do the hike before dad is even home from work, starting around 3pm and sunset around 4:30pm.

Solstice Celebrations
Winter Solstice during a strange snowless but cold December in 2019

Spring and fall times are similar, around 8pm, and it’s a late night but bedtime isn’t substantially delayed.

Solstice Celebrations
Spring Solstice hike, which is still winter in Alaska

If you asked my kids what their favorite parts of this tradition is, I think they’d say the excitement of being up at night, and the snacks! Yes, there is candy. And always a special juice (Mango smoothie) on the summer solstice as part of waking them up.

Solstice Celebrations
Eliza was so excited to start joining us last fall, and excited because: candy!

Maybe they’d say the solstice dances, or being a herd of animals looking for a place to sleep.

Solstice hikes are an easy way to make a memorable tradition with your family. You could go to a field to have a sunset picnic, or to your favorite lake. I like the consistency of doing the same place but you could mix it up and go different places throughout the seasons and years.

Solstice Celebrations at Home: Other Ways to Celebrate the Solstice

We read solstice books, including the series about solstices and equinoxes by Wendy Pfeffer; her summer solstice book is called “The Longest Day“. “The Solstice Badger” is another favorite.

Other great solstice activities include making lanterns (for places it gets dark.. this is something we do for Winter Solstice in Alaska but in summer here it really never gets dark enough), making sun bread, and drawing the seasonal cycles on the chalkboard. Bonfires and fireworks and seasonal dishes can also be a fun tradition.

Solstice Celebrations

Here is what the Summer Solstice means to TMM Team Member Valerie’s family:

For my family, Summer solstice is all about our connection to the earth, and our dependence on the sun for our life.  It’s a time to pause, and really think about our relationship with the sun. In the days leading up to, and following the summer solstice, we intentionally slow down and simplify.

This means enjoying the first harvests from the garden…spicy radishes, green tender leaves of spinach. Simple meals, enjoyed out of doors whenever possible to soak up all the goodness from the power of the sun. Ripe juicy tomatoes, cheese and basil with a freshly baked loaf of bread. Crisp cucumber dipped in a lemony hummus.

Eating simply with minimal time in the kitchen also frees up more of our time getting outside and enjoying summers pleasures. We make a point of waking before the sun on or around summer solstice. Sitting outside for the dawn chorus is a magical experience. It’s almost comical how loud the birds can be at 5:00 in the morning!

We usually plan a camping trip that coincides with summer solstice, but it doesn’t always happen. Even if we are home, we pick a night to stay out until the stars come out and enjoy the sounds and scents that accompany twilight. The frogs and night bugs seem amplified once the sun goes to bed. 

Story time on a blanket in the yard in pjs reading from our collection of nature tales. Sleeping under the stars.

We use the week of solstice to catch up and connect with each other as well. What dreams and hopes do we have for the summer season? What interests have come up, and how should we pursue them?

The heat of the sun helps us remember to slow down too. We take a long day at the lake to catch water skippers and polywogs, and make time to get our hands dirty and play in the mud. We take time to be grateful for the changing of the seasons and welcome summer with open arms!

TMM Team Member Valerie’s kids enjoying the peak of summer

What are your family traditions around solstices? There is no Celebration too big or small, just take this opportunity to enjoy this season of life with your family!

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  • Kristin grew up in Western Massachusetts but moved north to Alaska in 2008 in search of more snow and bigger mountains. She homeschools her three children and tries to spend as much time as possible learning outside. Kristin loves hiking, camping, puddle stomping, laughing, igloo building, reading, science, baking, photography, and watching the sun go down from on top of a mountain; and is passionate about sharing her enthusiasm for the natural world and her knowledge of the gear that can get you out there in every kind of weather. She works part-time from home as an Environmental Scientist and technical editor.

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