World

How do you welcome summer?

Updated 5:14 AM ET, Fri August 9, 2013
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Summer solstice, the longest day of the year, arrives in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21. It's a time when bonfires are lit, traditional songs are sung and more often than not, clothes come off. Robban Kanto and his friends, who celebrated the longest day in Zinkgruvan in Sweden last year, couldn't resist a quick skinny-dip before the night was up. Courtesy Robban Kanto
There weren't many more clothes on display at the Santa Barbara 3-day summer solstice parade last year. "It's one of the largest, most festive, and longest-running events of its kind in the U.S." said Scott London, who documented the event. Courtesy Scott London
In Germany, the distinctive 'Externsteine' rock formation is an important venue for large festivals during the longest day of the year, similar to the UK celebrations at Stonehenge. Bernd Mestermann, who took this photo, has been going to this German event for 20 years. Courtesy Bernd Mestermann
In Sweden, where Midsummer is one of the biggest celebrations of the year, singing and dancing are central to the fun and frolics. But before all that the maypole has to be decorated and raised. Ulf Bodin took this photo in the small town of Sigtuna, an hour north of Stockholm. Courtesy Ulf Bodin
After the Swedish midsummer maypole has been raised, it's time for the dancing, which, to outsiders, might look odd, embarrassing and weird. But don't laugh! The Swedes take their Midsummer dancing very seriously. This photo, shot by Mats Edenius, shows the end of the "rocket" dance. "It starts with low clapping going more intense, trying to make as much noise as possible. Then it takes off and everybody jumps synchronized." Courtesy of Mats Edenius
64-year-old Janto Marzuki captured these images of a typical Stockholm midsummer celebration in 2008, in the historic open air museum and zoo 'Skansen', where you can relive the days before the industrialization and see people dressed up in Swedish traditional dresses. Courtesy Janto Marzuki
This shot, however, is the real deal. It was taken in 1957 by iReporter Paul Jackson's uncle Sven Eric Andersson on Midsummer's Day on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Jackson, who is half Swedish, says he is very proud of his ancestry and that he always "pauses a moment to think of my Swedish relatives on midsummer evening." Courtesy Paul Jackson
Traditional costumes are also an important part of the midsummer celebrations in Novo Cice, a small village in central Croatia. They organize a folklore festival every year to celebrate the arrival of summer and birth of St. John the Baptist. "During the years, the festival has become bigger and we have started to get visits by folklore societies from nearby countries," says the photographer Vedran. Courtesy Vedran Vrhovac
Valeria85 took this photo in the cathedral of Bari, Italy. She says that only during summer solstice does the light coming from the ceiling align perfectly onto the special mosaic pattern. Watching this "game of light" in the cathedral has been her midsummer tradition for a couple of years and she will be there again this year. Courtesy Valeria Morrone
In Denmark it's common to have big bonfires during summer solstice. Londoner Mitchel David Needham attended the Danish 'Sankt Hans Aften' in 2011. "Whilst the bonfire was burning, several bands performed, a lot of families played games with their children around the fire and young people were drinking and generally having a great time!" Courtesy Mitchell David Needham
"The Uluu Ot, or Sacred Fire, has been remembered in Kyrgyz oral storytelling for 40,000 years. The Uluu Ot was rekindled in Kyrgyzstan on the summer solstice of 2010, attended by traditional cultural practitioners representing the Central Asian migration out of Africa," says iReporter Maryka Ives Paquette Courtesy Maryka Ives Paquette
The bonfires are also one of the highlights during Norwegian midsummer, or 'Sankthansaften'. This photo taken by Jon-Arne Belsaas in 2009 shows one of the world's largest bonfire made of barrels. He had hurried back to the town of Bergen from his work on a Navy ship to witness it. "I wanted to catch this magnificent sight," he says. Courtesy Jon-Arne Belsaas
In Finland the midsummer celebrations are called 'Juhannus'. "Lots of people- friends and family- gather together somewhere near water and set up a huge bonfire called "Kokko" and usually drink lots of alcohol and go to the sauna. That's just somehow the Finnish thing," says 24-year-old Tom Rantala who took this photo during midsummer celebrations in 2011. Courtesy Tom Rantala
Witnessing the summer solstice in Scandinavia is an experience many from abroad want to experience at least once in their lives. Luke Isaac and his wife are currently enjoying their first midsummer in Finland. He took this photo June 17 at the Lake Äkäslompolo in Lapland, a region stretching across Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. He said they will watch the bonfire. "All is quiet at the moment". Courtesy Luke Isaac
For those living far from home, midsummer traditions can be a way to reconnect with one's roots. Darius Kuzmickas shared this photo from a midsummer celebration by the Lithuanian community in Portland, Oregon . "We sing and dance until sunset." Courtesy Darius Kuzmickas
For some, summer is marked by special foods. The San Diego Fair tends to adventurous taste buds during summer months. Californian Chris Morrow starts her summer by trying the fair's food. This photo shows her husband's Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe. "It's a taste conflict of sweet and savory that are not complimentary. The confusion in your mouth is weird and awesome!" Courtesy Chris Morrow
Food is indeed an important part in many solstice celebrations, especially in Sweden. 35-year-old Robban Kanto documented last year's midsummer celebrations with his friends where they served traditional midsummer food, like pickled herring, hard bread, caviar on egg and meatballs. Courtesy Robban Kanto
If summer solstice celebrations sound too stressful, there is always the option to join the 'Solstice in Times Square' event in New York City, where thousands of people practice yoga together. "Yoga has always been associated with the sun as a life-giving and healing force," says Asterio Tecson, who took these photos in 2012. Courtesy Asterix611