Get ready for the longest day of the year! The Summer Solstice, the most ancient celebration in the world, is taking place this Saturday, June 21. It marks the first day of the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, where crowds are gathering for parties, dancing, bonfires and feasts.
The summer solstice is set to begin exactly at 6.51 am. EDT on Saturday, officially ringing the start of the summer in the Northern Hemisphere. And for those living in the Southern Hemisphere, June 21 will mark the beginning of winter. Many areas north of the equator will see 16 hours of sunlight that day, while if you travel to the north of the Arctic Circle, you will be able to see the Midnight Sun, where the sun simply doesn’t set for 24 hours. We can see why ancient people all around the world were so fascinated by the solstices. But why the summer solstice occur?
Earth’s axis, the imaginary line separating the northern and the southern hemispheres, is a bit tilted and this tilt is the reason why we enjoy four seasons. On Saturday, the tilt of the Earth’s axis will be most inclined towards the sun, at a degree of about 23⁰26’. In other words, the northern hemisphere will receive more direct rays of the sun. They will be directly overhead along the Tropic of Cancer, passing through Mexico, Saharan Africa and India. At the same time, June 21, will be the winter solstice for the southern hemisphere, while south of the Antarctic Circle, it will be a 24-hour night. The word solstice comes from Latin and means “sun stands still”. Basically, the sun appears to stop and then reverses direction after this day.
In ancient times, solstices, as well as equinoxes, were very important because they guided people into growing crops, and of course, maintaining calendars. The summer solstice in the Northern hemisphere was widely celebrated with rituals, feasts and the constructing of various megalithic stone arrangements. The most famous one is Stonehenge – an ancient place of worship and celebrations during the summer solstice. Besides the druids, many other cultures around the world has marked this time of the year – the Inti Raymi festival in the Inca Empire, the feast of Tiregan in Iran, marked by both Muslims and Zoroastrians, the pagan Midsummer or the Christian St. John’s Day, celebrated all across Europe, and many others.
Today, the summer solstice is still a powerful time of the year, celebrated by various nations, cultures, and religions all over the globe. One of the most popular celebrations take place around Stonehenge, but Sweden is maybe the place where this day has the largest significance. Being one of the biggest holidays in the country, some of the residents believe it should be made Swedish National Day, which is officially held on June 6 every year.
Whether you have planned a celebration with bonfires, or simply attending a poolside party , don’t forget that this is the longest day of the year, which means more fun and positive emotions!