Rebel druids gather at Stonehenge as Europe marks summer solstice under COVID-19 restrictions

Thousands of Europeans remained standing to greet the sunrise on Monday even as traditional festivities were put on hold due to COVID-19.

Police have been called to a gathering of hundreds of people at the summer solstice at Stonehenge, a world-famous Neolithic monument in Wiltshire, southwest England.

Normally, up to 30,000 people gather on the ancient stone circle to mark the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, many in traditional pagan dress.

Public access to Stonehenge and other heritage sites is still closed after the UK government extended partial restrictions until the end of July.

A live stream of the sunrise by English Heritage was cut midway through at 4:52 a.m. BST due to what organizers called safety concerns.

The main druid, King Arthur Pendragon, performed a ritual in an adjacent field despite the morning rain and said he felt the closures were unnecessary. “It was never going to be huge anyway,” he said.

One has also been arrested for being drunk and messy at the nearby Avebury Stones after hundreds of revelers gathered on Sunday night for an otherwise good-natured rally.

A nod to centuries-old traditions during the COVID-19 era, music and meditation events took place online across Europe on Monday, along with smaller and in-person celebrations.

The ancient Slavic festival that precedes the solstice is known as Kupala Night: the shortest night of the year.

In Poland, the scores attended a one-day event on Saturday at the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes in Szczecin with folk musicians, wreath competitions and fire jumps.

Midsummer traditions in Sweden include dancing around a Maypole, lighting fires, and feasting on vodka and herring. This year, for security reasons, there was no May pole at Skansen, the world’s largest open-air museum in Stockholm, but 5,000 people are expected to attend a music festival all day.

Meanwhile, spectacular nighttime bonfires visible for miles around were lit in the mountains of Tyrol, Austria, out of respect for a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice falls from June 20 to 22 each year and marks the day the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer at noon.

Due to the earth’s tilt towards the sun, it is the longest day in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day south of the equator.

The sun rose at 5:32 a.m. Central European Time on Monday morning. Most of the continent will benefit from around 14 hours of daylight, but in areas further north, such as St. Petersburg in Russia, residents will benefit from around 19 hours of daylight.

While it also signals the onset of winter – with increasingly shorter days for the rest of the year – the summer solstice is traditionally celebrated around the world, from Greece to the United States in passing through Japan.

Did you take pictures of the sunrise over Europe this morning? Let us know.