I love the summer solstice, a time when we experience the wonder of a perfect balance between night and day, at the moment when the sun climbs to its farthest point north of the equator.
This year the solstice happened at 7:09 p.m. EDT on June 20 in the U.S. Daylight lasts just a fraction of a second longer on June 20 than on June 19 or 21. From here on out, the days will get just a bit shorter each day until the winter solstice in December.
For those in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, the opposite is true: this solstice is the astronomical marker for the beginning of winter.
Check out these 5 ways to celebrate:
1. Discover What The Solstice Is All About
The reason for these fluctuations has to do with the tilt of Earth’s axis. Our planet’s spin is skewed 23.5 degrees. At the summer solstice, the North Pole is tilted as much as possible toward the sun. The winter solstice occurs when the planet’s northernmost point is directed as far as possible away from the sun. That means that those of us north of the equator get more rays in the summer months.
The sun is always above the horizon in summertime at the North Pole, reaching its apex at the solstice. This perpetual daylight continues until the autumn equinox in September, when the sun finally sets. A months-long twilight follows until October, when the North Pole experiences round-the-clock winter darkness.
2. Take A Trip To Stonehenge
No one knows why ancient people built Stonehenge, but it was constructed to align with the summer and winter solstices. If you’ve ever visited this prehistoric site, you know that it is a place of wonder, filled with magical energy. Pagans and druids and a lot of tourists witness the sunrise on the longest day of the year at the prehistoric site, marking the event with religious ceremonies.
This year, the BBC reports that a 22 foot figure, called Ancestor has been moved to the stones ahead of the solstice celebrations. The seven tonne steel statue depicts a man with his “head thrown back and arms open wide”.
After the solstice it will be dismantled and taken to nearby Salisbury, also in the county of Wiltshire, for the Olympic torch event.
3. Take Part In An Ancient Ritual
Ritual celebrations of seasonal changes happened in cultures worldwide in earlier times, and in many places bonfires are still lit at the summer solstice to celebrate the longest day of the year, when the sun is at the peak of its power. From Finland to Spain, midsummer is often associated with these huge public bonfires, which draw crowds of spectators at night. In the past, people leaped over those bonfires to encourage fertility, purification, health and love. The fire of course represents the sun.
4. Read About Superstitions
How much do you know about superstitions associated with the summer solstice and midsummer? Here are a couple of them from Project Britain:
Roses are of special importance on Midsummer’s Eve. It is said that any rose picked on Midsummer’s Eve, or Midsummer’s Day, will keep fresh until Christmas.
At midnight on Midsummer’s Eve, young girls should scatter rose petals before them and say:
Rose leaves, rose leaves, rose leaves I strew. He that will love me, come after me now.
Then the next day, Midsummer’s Day, their true love will visit them.
5. Watch This Video To See How You Can Measure The tilt Of The Earth, Using Just Yourself!
Celebrate and be happy!
Photo Credit: istock