Picture by Erin and Dean Gagnon

By: Megan Pasche

Summer solstice has been celebrated for centuries now, generations of people living and working by the rise and set of the sun. Perhaps the most famous monument to the solstice is Stonehenge, used to mark the exact time when summer solstice was occurring. Stand in the centre of the circle on the day of the solstice, and the sun will rise overtop of the heel stone, which sits just outside the main stone ring. The ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramids, so that when they were viewed from the Giant Sphinx on the day of the summer solstice, the sun rose directly between them. For these ancient people, this day was important to the wellbeing of their crops (and therefore their health), so great reverence was given to it.

The summer solstice may not have the same importance now as it did back then, but the core remains the same. It is the welcoming of a new season, that commemorates the time in the year that the Earth is most inclined towards the sun, and the sun reaches it’s highest position in the sky. It is the day of the year that has the most daylight.

This event is celebrated around the world, in a variety of different ways. Countries in Scandinavia where the day is known as Midsummer, celebrate in a big way, with vodka, herring, singing and dancing. In other parts of Europe, the day is known as St. John’s Day, and towns light up with bonfires, dancing and sometimes for the more adventurous, streaking. Throughout North America, Native American tribes dance on this day to honour the sun.

Here in Niagara, there is a fun summer solstice tradition that has been taking place for the last 16 years: Drumming Down the Sun. It has become so popular, that this year, the event will be taking place in three different locations.

Organizer of the event, Carla Carlson, a local naturalist, environmentalist and operator of Niagara Nature Tours, notes that she originally came up with the idea after attending a drumming event at a café. While there, she ran into the organizer of the Port Dalhousie Summer Solstice Festival, and they both thought it would be cool to add drumming to the festival. Carla offered to organize that portion of the festival, and continued to do so, even after the festival itself ceased to exist any longer.

People gather with their friends and family, and drum and dance, as the sun sets over the Lake. People come from all over to participate in this event, which Carla explains has, “no religious or spiritual focus, whatever people bring to it, they bring for themselves. It is open to all people, and everyone comes for their own reasons.” She says her absolute favourite part of this sunshiny event, is “watching the children dancing around the beach, with such joy on their faces. It’s very touching, and very beautiful. With the sunset as a background, it’s amazing.”

This summer’s event, which is happening on Saturday, June 21st, from 7pm to sunset, will be taking place at three different beaches on Lake Ontario: Lakeside Park, the West Beach at Charles Daly Park, and at a beach in Niagara-on-the-Lake. A donation of a loonie is asked for from each attendee, as it helps offset the cost of administration and organization, as well as goes towards a nature based non-profit.

From 7pm to 7:45pm, there is ‘Yoga on the Beach’, where all participants need is a yoga mat or blanket, and a small donation. No experience is necessary. From 8pm to 10pm, the drumming circle plays on, with hula hoopers, jugglers and who knows else joining in the fun. It’s a wonderful event to get outside and just appreciate the thrill of being.

“The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy”
Henry Ward Beecher