The summer solstice (June 21), marks the zenith of the sun, the longest day of the year, when the sun’s power is at its peak. The moment of peak power is very, very brief. Our ancestors built huge bonfires on this day to celebrate their connection to the vital power of the immense burning star that keeps our planet bright, warm, and alive.
Hundreds of years ago on the summer solstice, our ancestors sat in sun-drenched fields or on stones as warm as living flesh, fashioning small round suns from straw or vines, decorating them with suncolored flowers, honoring the mysterious, fiery light that warmed and brightened their days and made the plants grow that fed them.
The summer solstice is a perfect time to help children make a tangible connection with the earth, to connect with the sun, to invite solar power into their lives. If you and they make a round, golden image while sitting in the strongest sunlight of the year, allowing it to shine on and infuse your creations, you bring that strong, life-promoting energy indoors with you when you are done.
Here are just a few ideas for possible materials to get going. Chances are that the children will come up with their own marvelous and surprising inventions that will work just as well. The only prerequisites are that it be round and that its colors evoke the sun’s warmth and passionate splendor. Try your best to make your images outdoors in the sunshine.
* Grapevine wreaths make excellent bases, which may then be decorated with fresh or dried flowers and yarn or ribbons. You can home-dye your yarn and ribbon using onion skins to achieve a rich terracotta or golden yellow, depending on how long you boil them in the pot with the skins.
* Modeling clay comes in many types, some self-hardening or bakeable. Get out the toothpicks, chopsticks, and other carving implements, and make suns with jolly faces.
* Children of all ages enjoy finding four slender sticks from the yard, crossing them to make an asterisk shape with eight spokes—reminiscent of the eight festivals of the year—and winding brightly colored yarns and ribbons around and around to make a round solar variation on the ancient “God’s Eye” shape. If four sticks are too bulky for small fingers to manage, use only three—the solar shape is more hexagonal but still appealing. Poke in a flower or two for an especially pleasing result—marigolds and daisies are the classic sunny favorites.
When the images are finished, you and the children may want to hold them up to the sky for a few moments so that the sun shines on them, before finding the perfect place in your house or outdoors to hang them.