It is midnight. My house is quiet except for the sound of the ceiling fans in the bedrooms of all my sleeping family. The neighborhood is so peaceful even with the occasional barking dog here or there and the sounds of night, which I love. My campfire has fallen to glowing embers, and with its protective screen, I can leave it as hearth and bed lure one and all back inside. Yes, tonight ends the Solstice, one of the most magical days and nights of the year.
In centuries past this was such a day of celebration with shops closed and festivals running rampant in all parts of Europe. In the heart of the celebrations stand the slabs of bluestone of the Salisbury plain known as Stonehenge. For 2,000 years this was used by the ancient Britons to establish the exact moment of the Solstice. This marvel of ancient architecture is still difficult for moderns to explain.
The ancients built fires on these nights with newlyweds dancing close by and then, arm and arm, leaping over these fires. Shakespeare used this knowledge in his writings.
Legends and folktales abound on this magical night. One story from the British Isles says if a maiden fasts all day before the Solstice, and then at midnight sets her table with cakes and ale, a man will appear before her. That man will eventually become her husband.
I have spent many Solstice celebrations in different parts of the world enjoying the customs … Scotland, Ireland.
As for me, my friends and family this year, we build the Solstice campfire late in the evening here at the House at White Picket Gardens. Under the canopy of the Big Dipper and the Summer Triangle, we meet with chairs and benches circling the campfire. On these Solstice nights a fairy princess is always chosen. This has been a tradition in my family for many years starting when my sons were young. Many of their friends became fairy princesses over the years, and in one instance, a prince was chosen.
On this night my golden-haired 10-year-old granddaughter sits quietly at the edge of the fire ring and is chosen to become the fairy princess. She is crowned with the once-a-year crown and given the bowl of rose petals. Holly takes her job seriously knowing someone is only chosen once in their lifetime to be this fairy princess. The list is long and, on the farm years ago, these names were etched onto the window glass of the front door.
We sing … or try to sing:
“White coral bells, along a slender stalk. Lilies of the garden deck my garden walk. Oh don’t you wish that you could hear them ring? That will happen only when the fairies sing.”
Or I should say we give it a valiant try and sing it several times. My hope is to get everyone to sing it in a round, but since it is close to the 11 o’clock hour, we decide enough is enough.
I look to Holly and tell her it is time to pass out rose petals. She asks me a lovely question concerning the petals. “Are these from your roses that you collected this year?” I nod in agreement remembering each rose and each bouquet I either grew or was gifted during the year.
She carries the bowl to each guest so they can take out their own petal and petals for friends and family who can’t make it to the campfire. I take out a petal for me, one for Adam and Tara, and one for Kathy. One by one we toss them into the fire making quiet wishes for the year to come.
Next Holly scatters petals across the back yard inviting the fairies to come to my garden to play this summer. Holly is a no-nonsense kind of girl, and it warms my heart to watch her play in such a manner. Isn’t there a bit of magic in all of us if we just let it happen?
By midnight everyone is tired and begins to collect their chairs and meander back to their cars or down the street.
I am not quite ready for bed as I reflect by candlelight the magic of the night. We head back to winter after this day, but for now? My garden is blessed and the fairies will play.