6 mystical festivals around the world to kick off summer

Thousands Gather at Stonehenge for Summer Solstice

By AccuWeather

With summer having officially kicked off on Sunday, June 21, nations across the globe are preparing to celebrate the transition of the seasons.

1. The Summer Solstice Festival

Set between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific, the city of Santa Barbara, California, ushers in the summer season with vibrant colors, live music and a parade.

Beginning this year on Friday, June 19, the city will kick-start summer with their annual three-day summer solstice festival, which began back in 1974. With this year's theme of "Sci Fi," the largest arts event in the county will draw in more than 100,000 spectators and 1,000 parade participants, according to the event's website, to celebrate the longest day of the year.

With the highlight of the event on Saturday, the Summer Solstice Parade will feature elaborate floats, vivid costumes and masks, as well as both street and choreographed dancers. Other than the parade, a diverse lineup of live music artists will fill Alameda Park with tunes of hip-hop, rock n' roll, pop and reggae music.

2. Midsummer

For the first official day of summer, people across Scandinavia will celebrate the start of the season with their traditional Midsummer festival.

Known worldwide for ring dances around a maypole, or a tall, wooden pole adorned flowers and wreaths, midsummer features some of the region's renowned dishes and drinks. From pickled herring, salmon and schnapps, eating customary foods is accompanied by drinking songs throughout the celebration.

As the legend goes, the time before Midsummer's Eve is supposed to be a magical time for love, as young women pick various kinds of flowers and lay them under their pillows. With the flowers under their heads, their husbands appear in their dreams that night.

3. Bonfires for St. John's Eve

Known as St. John's Eve, the evening before Midsummer, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, is a popular holiday in Denmark and other portions of Scandinavia and Europe.

Large outdoor fire

In commemoration of the birthday of John the Baptist, locals often light a bonfire after getting together for dinner and listening to lectures by key note speakers. A witch, made of old clothes and stuffed with hay, is traditionally placed on top of the burning flames in order to keep evil forces away.

4. Ivan Kupala Day

Taking place in early July, Ukraine and other Slavic countries observe numerous rituals based around water and fire, believing that these two elements unify on Kupala Day, according to Fly Ukraine.

Dedicated to the summer solstice and the ancient Pagan Sun God, Kupala, rituals include bathing, jumping through fire and hide-and-seek, as well as wreath-making. According to Fly Ukraine, the legends attest that the jumper who reaches the highest height above the fire will find happiness, a couple who successfully clears the fire will get married and a girl who puts her wreath out into the water and it remains afloat will find love and be married.

5. The Duanwu Festival

Falling on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month every year, this three-day holiday began this year on June 20. With origins dating back to more than a thousand years ago, the Duanwu Festival was established in remembrance of the famous Chinese official and poet Qu Yuan.

BEIJING - MAY 23:  Teams compete during the Qinglong Lake Dragon Boats Competition on May 23, 2009 in Beijing, China. The Duanwu Festival, or 'Dragon Boat Festival', takes place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in the Chinese calendar and this year falls on May 28th. The festival was established in remembrance of Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet who committed suicide in the Miluo River on the day in 221 BC.  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

Today, the most notable part of the festival is dragon boat racing. Commemorating the failed search for Yuan's body, who died from drowning, boat racing is thought to scatter underwater animals in the river, according to ChinaTravel.com.

6. Picnic Day

Potato sack races, tug-o-war and bull rides all constitute portions of the national August holiday, known as Picnic Day, which is celebrated in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Originally designated a public holiday for railway workers building the North Australia Railway, according to australiasoutback.com, the holiday is now celebrated by many across the region. This year, the celebration will take place on Aug. 4.

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