The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and has been a day of celebration in the Northern hemisphere since ancient times. Summer solstice celebrations are especially popular in Scandinavia, where winter is long and dark and people celebrate the fleeting summer weather with bonfires and buffets each Midsommar. While not an official holiday in the United States, the Summer Solstice offers the perfect opportunity for an outdoor party with friends and family.
Traditional Scandinavian Summer Solstice Party
If you are looking for a party with a story, a traditional Scandinavian Midsommar party offers a unique way to celebrate the start of summer.
Food and Drink Suggestions
Food served at a Midsommar party reflects the region's rich history with a variety of of fish and seafood dishes flavored with rich spices such as cardamom and dill. Dishes especially popular for summer solstice celebrations in Nordic countries include:
- Pickled herring, a marinated fish dish that you'll need to prepare at least six hours in advance
- Smoked salmon dip seasoned with dill and horseradish
- New potatoes with dill, served with a lemon caper dipping sauce
- Pungent cheeses such as Jarlsberg or Get-Mese, served with rye bread or crackers
- Shrimp salad, served alone or on rye bread with cucumbers
- Aquavit, a grain liquor flavored with spices such as dill, cardamom, or caraway
In the event that some of your guests are less than adventurous when it comes to ethnic foods, you should also include some standard crudités, cheese and cracker platters, and some other common summer foods. Pair foods with water, soda, and other easy-to-serve drinks.
Activities for Everyone
It's always good to give your guests something fun to do. Consider these options.
- Children can pick flowers to create wreaths, daisy chain necklaces, and rings.
- Prepare music for dancing into the evening. Consider picking popular tunes from bands featured at some cool Nordic summer music festivals.
Decorate using blue and yellow, which are the colors of the Swedish flag. Add this color to tablecloths, balloons, flower arrangements, and other items throughout the party space. A flag or two would help reinforce the color theme.
Classic Summer Barbeque Theme
Barbeques offer one of the easiest ways to entertain a crowd.
Food and Drink Suggestions
A lot of the food served at a barbeque can be prepared ahead of time, including pasta salads, garden salads, dips, and desserts. Add some bags of chips and some salsa and you're done. Great barbeque foods that are inexpensive and easy to prepare for a crowd include:
- Beef or pork ribs, which don't require any prep before cooking
- Barbecue chicken legs or drumsticks prepared on the grill
- Corn on the cob served with flavored butters
- Baked beans prepared using your favorite type of beans and cooking method
- Potato salad made with Yukon gold or other waxy potatoes
- Sheet cake, cupcakes, or Jello desserts which can be made two to three days ahead of time
Keep in mind that barbeque items like chicken legs, pork ribs and steaks require utensils and are best eaten at a table, so be sure that you have enough seating for everyone. Hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and dips are slightly more forgiving and can be eaten while standing up or sitting poolside. Don't forget to add a cooler full of water, pop, and lemonade for everyone to grab.
Backyard party games are the best activities for a summer solstice barbecue, and there are a lot of options guests of any age can enjoy, from horseshoes to a corn hole toss to traditional children's games like tag and sack races. If the barbecue goes into the night, a small backyard bonfire may be warranted; just be sure to check with your city's ordinances before lighting one.
Casual is key when it comes to decorating for a backyard barbecue. Red checkered tablecloths, blue napkins, and other brightly colored tableware will set the tone. Pick a few flowers and place them in mason jars for table centerpieces. If a fence or tree is nearby, you can hang festive banners or wind socks as well.
Summer Solstice Cocktail Party Theme
If you are looking for a fun, grown-up party theme, consider throwing a cocktail party celebrating the longest day of the year.
Drinks and Appetizers Suggestions
When planning a cocktail party, it's important to remember that you do not have to offer every kind of drink. Select a few specialty drinks that reflect the season or occasion and supplement with wine and beer (and plenty of water - you want to be a responsible host). Cocktails should be light and fruity - think light liquors based with fresh berries and fruits. Summer inspired cocktails include:
- White wine spritzer garnished with fresh fruit slices or berries
- Peach sangria, which should be made at least four hours before the party
- Hurricanes made with passion fruit juice
- Sex on the Beach served on the rocks in a highball glass
- Margaritas, which can be made in three gallon batches
Go Easy on Activities
A cocktail party typically revolves around drinks and socializing; you don't need to have a lot of additional activities planned. Set up a speaker system and have good tunes playing, from the Beach Boys to jazz to the current top pop hits. Make sure there is a small area cleared for guests who might want to dance to their favorite tunes.
Go with classy decorations for a cocktail party. Tall cocktail tables paired with crisp white linens look great and don't take up a lot of space. Add in a few white pillar candles and your tables are complete. String white twinkle lights around trees, across the fence, and any other areas you want to sparkle.
Purchasing Food and Drink
One of the trickiest parts of entertaining is deciding how much food and drink to purchase. You don't want to run out of food, but you also don't want to eat leftovers for days after your party. Use a party planning guide to determine how much beer, wine, and spirits to purchase.
Options for Any Summer Solstice Party
No matter which theme you ultimately decide on, there are a few basic elements to think about.
Even though the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, chances are your party will stretch into the evening hours.
- Candles, tea lights, and fairy lights offer soft lighting for outdoor entertaining.
- Make your own strands of paper lanterns to hang around the perimeter of the party area.
- Create an inexpensive candle centerpiece with a glass bowl and floating candles.
- Tiki torches are an easy-to-install option for outdoor lighting, while citronella candles will help keep mosquitos at bay.
Always be sure that any open flames are in a safe place, away from any fire hazards or small children.
Fresh flowers are one of the nicest decorations for any summer party. They are relatively inexpensive (or even free if you have your own gardens) in June. Place small bouquets of fresh flowers in recycled glass bottles and hang the bottles from a tree or suspend over the buffet table for a unique summer decoration.
If you want to add pops of bright, summery color to your party, Oriental Trading Company offers a lot of party decorating supplies including tablecloths, glassware and plates in a large variety of colors and themes, including sunburst and beach themes.
No party would be complete without some games.
- Classic lawn games like horseshoes, croquet, and badminton are easy to set up and accommodate several participants at once.
- A more traditional summer solstice game is dancing around a maypole. You can make your own maypole with a wooden pole that is at least seven or eight feet in height and then use thumbtacks to attach six different colors of satin ribbon at the top.
Summer Solstice Celebration Invitations
The summer solstice occurs between June 20 and 22, depending on the year. Invitations, whether electronic or paper, should be sent at least six weeks in advance. Summer solstice invitation graphics include sunbursts, sunflowers, and outdoor lanterns.
Guests may not be familiar with the summer solstice, so make sure party invitations include a brief description of the history of summer solstice celebrations.
- Purchase: Zazzle offers a wide array of customized invitations, including personalized RSVP postage stamps. Invitations range between two and four dollars a piece.
- Download free invitations: Greeting Island has a good selection of customizable and printable cocktail party invitations appropriate for this kind of summer solstice party.
- DIY: You can make your own summer solstice party invitations with plain card stock and a sunburst rubber stamp and ink pad.
- Electronic: Punchbowl offers a free and easy electronic party invitations, as well as party organizer to help keep track of RSVPs and other party details.
Celebrate Summer With a Party
The summer solstice offers the perfect opportunity to entertain friends and family and celebrate summer. There are many options when selecting a summer solstice party theme, from a traditional Midsommar party theme to a more modern cocktail party theme. Choose from a variety of budget-friendly invitations, decorations and lighting options for a low-cost backyard party and use free online party planning tools to help plan menus and purchase food and drink.