It seems this time of year, you can’t walk a few days across the calendar without tripping over a nation’s independence day, or republic day, or declaration of something or other. Obviously these are great strides for that nation and its independent peoples, but for the average American citizen, how important is Sweden’s celebration of being a newly defined nation? Do they ever even hear about these? Ok, maybe read more, but still. One June holiday that goes back before all these nations were even dreamed, and should be affecting every single person under the sun (of this hemisphere) is the ancient Summer Solstice.
Ultimately this is not so much a holiday as a great zenith of the solar year, upon which is based holidays and celebrations or observations of countless major religious and smaller tribal cultures. It all comes down to astronomy, the corner stone of possibly all early religions (we’re talking EARLY early- not 2000 years ago but more like 10,000). Thus you don’t have to think of the Summer Solstice this June as any way religious if that conflicts with you, but rather a time to observe an important point of the sun’s path, and the stamp of summer as being officially ON. Of course your friendly local climate shifts may try to say “spring” still, but feel free to disregard. Pull out the bikinis and the “banana bunkers”, shake up that sunscreen (don’t forget to check the expiration), because its summer time! So says the Summer Solstice.
The summer solstice is the exact day when the Earth is in the axial tilt causes that hemisphere of the planet to be tilted the most toward the sun. This means the days are the longest because of the Earth’s rotation around the sun, since it takes longer for the Earth to turn away from the sun as it spins on its axis while tilted toward the sun like it is in June. In the southern hemisphere (for Africa and South America) their summer solstice is on December 21st. So this June 20th is their shortest day of the year. The exact time the Earth will be at maximum tilt toward the sun, so really the ultimate height of the summer, will be at 11:09 pm tonight. Just in case someone out there wanted to celebrate the precise day and time its summer.
Also colloquially used as Midsummer (like the Shakespearian play), worldwide interpretation of this solar event varies greatly. The world “solstice” originates from the Latin sol sistere, meaning “sun standing still”, pertaining to it seeming to pause in the sky on this day as the sun is at its furthest point from the equator. For some cultures it is the beginning of the end of summer (because it really is the turning point when the sun will then start dwindling toward winter again). Sorry for the bummer sun-lovers out there, but you’ve still got a while. The summer solstice is also the time of the first harvest, with food gathering always greatly influencing cultures across the globe. Bonfires and dancing, even skyclad bathing and “lucky” June weddings are all part of the solstice traditions. Be ready for backyard barbeques, beach bonfires, and this peak of wedding season. And send the sun a fair hello at its peak in the year.