Sunday, June 25, 2017

Gathering of the Sun Worshippers Upon Summer Solstice

There's at least one day (maybe two) out of the year when your religion doesn't matter.

You can consider yourself Christian, Jewish, or Muslim—but on the Summer Solstice, we're all pagans.

In the third week of June—usually on or right before the 21st—we all revert back to our pre-Christian, pre-Judaic, pre-modern European roots to celebrate the longest day of the year, the short "midsummer" night.

While some would-be modern-day Druids may flock to Stonehenge to watch the sunrise as it aligns perfectly with the monoliths, and young Germans may still light bonfires and guzzle wine, there's really just one place for Californians to celebrate the day that the sun aligns with the Tropic of Cancer—and that's in Santa Barbara.



Since 1974, Santa Barbara has hosted an annual Summer Solstice parade...



...which, though it began as a birthday celebration for a local beloved mime and artist...



...has evolved into a three-day festival.



Every year since 1979, paraders have designed their floats, props, and costumes around a central theme.



In past years, it might've been circus or even sci-fi...



...but this year, the Santa Barbara Solstice Parade took a leaf from the book of the Rose Parade and set its sights upon "Celebrating Unity."



That meant that this year—perhaps more than ever—anything goes.



For some people who march, it's clear that it's just a chance to dress up silly and ham it up.



For others, maybe it's something like performance art.



And yet when you lost past all the ridiculousness, you catch a glimpse of what ethnic religions look like in modern society...



...with a real reverence for long-standing folk traditions...



...and deep-rooted meaning in every headdress...



...costume...



...mask...



...and movement.



The people who walk in the non-motorized parade (some literally pushing floats) make everything by hand...



...and some have a lot of fun with it...



...choosing more whimsical representations of their paganism...



...from faeries and other sprites to unicorns and other beasts of antiquity.

But these differences don't really matter, at least not on a midsummer day. After all, in California there's one thing that unites us—and that's our worship of the sun.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Pasadena Doo Dah Parade 2014
Photo Essay: ¡Viva la Fiesta! Santa Barbara's Historical Parade El Desfile Histórico