Today is Summer Solstice, the first day of summer. Solstice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun” + “to stand still.” As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky. Today is known to be the longest day of the year when the Earth’s axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun at its maximum of 23Â° 26′. As a major celestial event, the Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December. The Summer Solstice is also referred to as “Midsummer” during Shakespearian times and in his works because it is roughly the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe.
Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations have for centuries celebrated the Summer Solstice. The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun’s energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light. The Druids’ celebrated the day as the “wedding of Heaven and Earth”. Today, the day is still celebrated around the world – most notably in England at Stonehenge where thousands gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice. Pagan spirit gatherings or festivals are also common in June, when groups assemble to light a sacred fire, and stay up all night to welcome the dawn. People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice.
The seasons of the year are caused by the 23.5° tilt of the earth’s axis. Because the earth is rotating like a top or gyroscope, the North Pole points in a fixed direction continuously — towards a point in space near the North Star. But the earth is also revolving around the sun. During half of the year, the southern hemisphere is more exposed to the sun than is the northern hemisphere. During the rest of the year, the reverse is true. At noontime in the Northern Hemisphere the sun appears high in the sky during summertime, and low during winter. The time of the year when the sun reaches its maximum elevation occurs on the summer solstice — the day with the greatest number of daylight hours. It typically occurs on, or within a day or two of, June 21st, the first day of summer. The lowest elevation occurs about December 21st and is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter,
when the night time hours reach their maximum.
Astrologically, the June Solstice marks the entry of the Sun into the Cardinal, Water Sign of Cancer. The Tropic of Cancer (23°N26′) is the actual degree of latitude over which the Sun stops in its journey north, and then turns, having gone as far north as it is going to each year. Cancer is ruled by the Moon and Midsummer celebrates the elemental powers of fire and water, so people would light fires and bathe in the dew on the morning of Midsummer’s Day – as many still do in many parts of the world.
For me, this marks a time of great memories growing up in a sun bathed small town with beaches kissing the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Chasing boys from the Catholic School Summer Camp nearby, going to fairs for cotton candy and dangerous rides assembled overnight by traveling circuses, sun bathing with a cancerous concoction of baby oil and iodine, syrupy sweet snowballs, and fun. Even though I’m and adult and my days of school letting out for summer are long gone I still get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside when this day arrives.
This summer is going to be hotter than usual for us folks around the world. I think it's safe to say global warming is very real since it seems our summers have been getting hotter and hotter with each year that passes. I suppose the world is destined to change, just as I had to go and grow up. But, being grown up hasn’t stopped me from getting that warm and fuzzy feeling… and it also hasn’t stopped me from indulging in syrupy snowballs or cotton candy whenever I can find it. But, it has stopped me from riding those dangerous rides built over night (these days I have my standards) and now I use sunblock (aging skin is brutal).
So, as we welcome the summer and all the joy it brings, be sure to watch my blog for some valuable tips about taking care of yourself in the sun and in the heat. You can extend your good times for years to come when you respect the sun and yourself!
Happy Summer Solstice,