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Summer Solstice: A Night of Tradition and Togetherness

Summer Solstice: A Night of Tradition and Togetherness

Dawn was just moments away, and the first glimmers of light timidly began to break through the sky. My sister and I lay on a towel spread out on the grass, watching a passing cloud being carried gently by the wind, surrendering without resistance

I’ve always appreciated that moment of stillness, a deceptive calm that precedes the birth of a new day when the night’s darkness intertwines and mingles with the rosy light that bathes everything in wonder. These fleeting moments, where a delicate balance reigns, time ceases to exist, and the world’s breath is fulfilled, while all of creation hangs suspended in the air before, when you least expect it, bursting into a chorus of birdsong, intoxicating scents, and vivid colors.

It was one of the most beautiful mornings of the year, June 21st, the Summer Solstice, when the veil between the human world and that of magical creatures becomes thin, and Mother Nature is at the peak of her power. It’s an enchanted moment when, somewhere in the woods, in the hills, near rivers and waterfalls, as the sun sets, the fairies gather to dance and sing until the next dawn.

As we gazed at the sky, carried away by the scent of jasmine, we reminisced about our childhood, when on the longest day of the year, Aunt Gilda would regale us with stories of magical creatures. Then, in the heart of the night, she would take us on an expedition into the woods to collect St. John’s herbs, with the promise that this time, the Little Folk would reveal themselves.

For three days, my sister Laura and I had been busy making this day even more special, hurrying back and forth from the living room to the garden, the garden to the kitchen, the woods to the countryside. The house had to be thoroughly cleaned, firewood gathered for the bonfire, and fresh flowers prepared for decorating the windows. Then, amid all the hustle and bustle, there was the dinner to be prepared for the entire family that, for the first time since we’d moved, we had the pleasure of hosting.

In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was a time for lovers to leap over bonfires to ensure their union. This tradition still thrives in many parts of Italy, known today as the Feast of Saint John the Baptist. However, it still carries the same abundance energy. Mother Earth is pregnant with the upcoming harvest and, in the weeks to come, will nourish all who need it, without distinctions or judgments, as only She who loves can. This is the spirit of the Summer Solstice.

The night of June 21st is also steeped in magic. It is said that dreams tend to come true, especially if you place a bouquet of nine herbs, including lavender, verbena, and wormwood, under your pillow. We, with a touch of creative license, aimed to revive these old traditions, as it warmed our hearts to recall the times when humans could enjoy each other’s company. With no pretense other than being together by the bonfire, telling stories, and gazing at the stars.

After that magical interlude, during which we witnessed the sunrise and heard the world’s song at its awakening, we quickly returned to our tasks because there was still much to do.

While my sister adorned the entrance gate with birch leaves, wild fennel, St. John’s wort, and white lilacs, I brought out the handmade baskets from the carpenter’s wife, which we would use for the nightly herb gathering and the dew.

In the early afternoon, Anna, our elderly neighbor, arrived to bring us stalks of wheat as gifts for our guests, along with a basket of freshly picked cherries. Later, our mother surprised us by arriving early to lend a hand in the kitchen. 

Eventually, Dad, Uncle Fausto, his wife Giuseppina, and, just before sunset, Aunt Gilda, along with her daughters Claudia and Patrizia, all joined the celebration.

The long wooden table beneath the pergola was laden with gifts offered by Mother Nature during this season: blackberries, blueberries, plums, and even a few prickly pears that grew independently on a path a couple of kilometers from home. Naturally, tomatoes, red and white beans, various types of salad, carrots, artichokes, onions, broad beans, and zucchinis were present. Farm-fresh eggs adorned the cold dishes, seasoned with olive oil and local cheeses, creating a colorful and aromatic feast that tantalized the taste buds.

Illuminated by the light of the bonfire lit by Dad and Uncle Fausto, as well as by dozens of small candles placed in every corner of the garden, accompanied by the twilight birds’ songs and a gentle breeze, we shared a meal in the cozy atmosphere we had lovingly created… and a Happy Solstice it was!

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