While each year brings its big-ticket events – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and new arrivals, Christmas, New Year and Easter – it would be a shame if they were the only moments we celebrated. The calendar can be full of smaller occasions and special days that create pockets of joy all through the year. We need only dig a little deeper in history, or pay closer attention to the natural world around us, to find them. Here’s a month-by-month list of suggestions for the summer months.
If ever there were a month with a rose-tinted outlook, it would be June. Almost guaranteed to be balmy (even in this fickle climate), June is arguably the perfect month for garden visiting, especially as this is when many roses are in full bloom. The National Garden Scheme even has a guide to the best rose gardens. Choose one near you and visit as an annual tradition. Continuing the rosy theme, June is, of course, British strawberry season: as synonymous with this month as Wimbledon. The quintessential pick-your-own fruit, it’s lovely to visit a farm each year at this time, where we can fill basket upon basket with sun-warmed strawberries and then indulge in strawberries and cream for the rest of the month.
The summer solstice also falls in June – on the twenty-first – followed swiftly by Midsummer’s Day on the twenty-fourth (the reason for the different dates is thanks to the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar). It’s unsurprising that the longest, headiest days of summer have a mystical air about them, and many a tale about fairies, spirits and the turning upside down of normal life is set at this time of year. The most famous of which, of course, is Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For full effect, try to catch a twilight garden performance.
Lazy, hazy July is here and what could be better than escaping the heat of town or home and adventuring out into the countryside? National Meadows Day falls on the first Saturday in July each year, and there are sure to be plenty of events to celebrate. We can think of nothing lovelier though than grabbing a picnic blanket and a good book and spending a few hours simply among the flowers.
Another way to cool the summer heat that we came across recently is by hanging a Japanese furin wind chime. These light-as-air objects are often made from delicate materials like glass, fine metals and even charcoal, and have a paper tag suspended from them that will pick up on the slightest of breezes. The idea is to only hang them at the height of summer so, when they chime, your attention is drawn to the cooling wafts of air that you might otherwise have missed.
On July’s fresher days, head to the kitchen: now’s the time for jam making. We’re in the peak of fruit season, with raspberries, gooseberries, cherries, apricots, peaches and nectarines all at their best. A little time spent over the stove now will see you in jarfuls of summer all through the rest of the year.
The first of August is the day historically set aside to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season in the British Isles, and is known variously as Lughnasadh in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man, as Gŵyl Awst in Wales, and as Lammas in England. The traditional way to celebrate is by baking a loaf of bread (Lammas literally means ‘loaf mass’). If you’re dough-confident, you could try your hand at a sheaf-shaped loaf to symbolise the first wheat and corn gathered in, or experiment with ancient grains like spelt, emmer or einkorn. Or, if you’re just dipping your toe into bread making, give less demanding soda bread or flatbreads a try.
Looking to the sky, one of the most impressive meteor showers of the year occurs in August. Weather permitting, you’ll spot the Perseids – the debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle on its 133-year orbit of the sun – at their peak on the night between the twelfth and thirteenth of August. The new moon falls on the 16th of August, so there will be a waning crescent moon up during the Perseid’s peak in 2023. But the thin crescent moon will not be too bright. You’ll also potentially see ‘shooting stars’ from sunset, although the best time will be between midnight and dawn.
Last but certainly not least, August is of course well known for its bank holiday – the end-of-season opportunity in Britain to soak up the last of the summer holiday atmosphere. A visit to the seaside is the usual go-to, and with the seas around our coastline now at their warmest, a spot of paddling or swimming wouldn’t go amiss. You could also take a leaf out of the Swedes’ book and hold a kräftskiva, a crayfish party thrown to celebrate the end of summer. As well as the crustaceans themselves (cooked with dill in ale), you’ll need paper hats and bibs, crayfish-themed décor, and snaps (flavoured shots of aquavit), which are generally drunk accompanied by merry singing. With the party stretching into the night, it’s a very fitting way to end the summer.