Salute the Sun: It’s the Summer Solstice!

I must confess, I do hope to see Stonehenge one day. I guess today wouldn’t have been the day to go as it’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the year when the sun is at its highest elevation (“solstice” is from two Latin words: sol means “sun” and stare means “to stand” (it’s a separate blog post to explain how you get “-stice” from  stare!). As NPR reports, nearly 18,000 neo-pagans and others gathered this morning  at the giant stone formation in Salisbury Plain 80 miles southwest of London to see the rising of the sun (more photos via the Guardian).

The solstice has been celebrated for some 5000 years at Stonehenge and also around the world. As National Geographic says, ancient Egyptians built the pyramids “so that the sun, when viewed from the Sphinx, sets precisely between two of the Pyramids on the summer solstice.” The ancient Incas celebrated Inti Raymi, with offerings of food and sacrifices of animals (and maybe humans). A long-buried Maya city in Guatemala has been found with buildings built to align with the sun during the summer and winter solstices.

National Geographic explains how the solstice occurs:

The summer solstice is a result of the Earth‘s north-south axis being tilted 23.4 degrees relative to the sun. The tilt causes different amounts of sunlight to reach different regions of the planet.

Today the North Pole is tipped more toward the sun than on any other day of 2011. The opposite holds true for the Southern Hemisphere, where today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

As a result, at high noon on the first day of summer, the sun appears at its highest point in the sky—its most directly overhead position—in the Northern Hemisphere.

Just because the sun is (or appears to be) at its highest does not mean it’s at its hottest or that it’ll be shining brightly everywhere. It’s actually a grayish, muggy day here in New Jersey as you can see from photos of Jon Huntsman at Liberty State Park where he announced he’s running for President earlier today. We go frequently to the very site he stood at as my husband and son like to ride parks there, across from lower Manhattan. Charlie loves — needs — to be really active and mostly outdoors. He’s very attuned to the changes in light, air pressure, which way the wind is blowing and we are, too.

Without Charlie, I’d actually be more inclined to sit inside as most of us do these days.  National Geographic points out that summer solstice isn’t what it used to be for most of us as we’ve become an “indoor culture,” with many of us — certainly in the US — no longer paying attention to the changes in the seasons and cranking up the AC when it gets too hot. So whether you’re participating in the mass free yoga” session (Yoga at the Great Lawn) planned in Central Park from 5 to 8pm tonight (says NBC New York) or out walking or riding bikes, celebrate the solstice and the start of summer by going outside, taking a look (if you can see it — this video taken at Stonehenge this morning suggests it wasn’t exactly sunny) up at the sun.

Related Care2 Coverage

Celebrate National Park Week, Now Through April 24th

Experiencing ‘America’s Great Outdoors’

Get Started in Solar Power and Energy Efficiency

 

Photo by Margolum

78 comments

Stephanie F.
Stephanie F.4 years ago

I am sorry that the days will shorten now. And, as my friend Maureen points out, we need the balance of Light and Dark. Perhaps "next year in Stonehenge!" Festive Litha all ! !

Carla Manning
Carla Manning5 years ago

I love the longest day of the year too Devon. To Joshua I., lighten up some dude while you still can.

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal5 years ago

I have not visited Stonehenge, but would love to.

Prochi T.
Prochi T.5 years ago

:) beautiful part of the country.

Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams5 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Monica D.
M D.5 years ago

It's winter solstice here!

Joshua I.
Joshua I.5 years ago

Yes, make a final salute to the summer solstice, this is the last one for you because the earth changes have begun, so do your best to try to enjoy your last opportunities for happiness and pleasure and greatness and glory...

Shelly Peterson
Shelly Peterson5 years ago

GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL!!!...I want and need to be "signing , Here Comes The Sun!!!"..were I live!!...but my neighbors need the rain that have drowned our crops and gardens...and they live with drought!...THIS IS REAL, MY FRIENDS!!

But Hello!! Summer Solstice!!...We should celebrate, that WE can still see our SUN!!...NOW , EVERYONE GET BUSY!!!SO WE STILL CAN!!! Thankyou!!

Devon Engle
Past Member 5 years ago

I love the longest day of the year!

Myriam G.
Myriam G.5 years ago

I went to the Summer Solstice Celebration in Stonehenge in 1997, and found it meaningful and spiritual. We weren't allowed in the Circle itself, though, but we met lots of beautiful people. I still remember it as one of the most vivid morning in my life.
That day we also went to nearby Avebury Circle, (Pat H is right, if you go the Stonehenge, take the time to visit it too!) and Silsbury Hill, which is quite impressive when you realise that people didn't even use metal when that hill was man-made. Great memories and immense respect for the ancient people who built all that. It really makes one realise that when peolpe put their mind to something, they can accomplish great things in really simple ways.