It's the 21st June and it's the longest day in the year. It's the summer solstice. Does it have any significance? For me it surely has. You may ask me why, you may wonder what's so special about this day. Well, let me tell you something: besides teaching English, I also teach literature and civilization to my students. The civilization lessons include the Celts and Stonehenge. And the main connection between these and the longest day in the year is ... the summer solstice.
How can we exploit this? First of all, we can use this common information to introduce Stonehenge. Have a look at the beautiful summer solstice sunrise over Stonehenge and ideas will come up.
Or, the summer solstice may become the starting point to introduce different celebrations to our students. If you browse an encyclopedia, you will find out many different things. For instance, I would introduce the idea of solstices which in some languages are considered to start or separate the seasons, while in others they are considered to be center points. For instance, in English, in the Northern hemisphere, the period around the June solstice is known as midsummer, and Midsummer's Day is 24 June, about three days after the solstice itself. It is on the same day when an important Romanian holiday takes place. Similarly 25th December is the start of the Christmas celebration, and is the day the Sun begins to return to the northern hemisphere. It can become a starting point for comparing different celebrations all around the world.
The Romanian holiday which takes place every year 3 days after the summer solstice, on 24th June, is called "Sanziene". The name of the celebration is given by these flowers:
The name of the celebration could be translated as "holy" ("san" in Romanian, an abbreviation of sfant = saint) and " fairy" ("zana" in my language). It's actually the celebration of the fairies who play an important role in the local folklore. There are many beliefs related to this celebration, but my favorite states that on the Sanziene night, the heavens open up, making it an adequate time for making wishes and for praying, as God is more likely to listen.
It's quite a mysterious celebration. My favorite writer, Mircea Eliade wrote a novel, "Noaptea de Sanziene", translated as "The Forbidden Forest", which includes references to the folk belief about skies opening at night.