On June 20th this year, we celebrate the summer solstice in our neck of the woods. But just what is a solstice and why do we celebrate it, anyways?
Technical jargon says the June solstice happens when the tilt of a planet’s semi-axis is most inclined toward the sun. It’s the Summer Solstice for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Solstice for those living in the Southern Hemisphere.
In the USA and some other areas of the northern hemisphere, this special date heralds the first day of summer. This is the day of the year that has the longest period of daylight, except in chilly polar regions where their daylight is continuous.
The most important part, for those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, is that we are now at our closest point to the warm shiny orb in the sky.
Summer has been celebrated since ancient times, with a common thread as a time popular for weddings – similar to current times.
An interesting fact that has offered up debate fodder for interested parties, is the building of Stonehenge. Built sometime around 3100BC, some people believe it was built to help establish when the summer solstice occurred. Reasons behind this theory culminate behind the fact that the sun rises at a particular point on the horizon as viewed from the center of the stone circle on day of the June solstice. Perhaps at that point, the builders may have started counting the days of the year.
Midsummer festivals or celebrations were held around the time of the June solstice in old Europe by pagans, such as the Feast of Epona, from ancient Gaul. Lots of pagan god worship ensued.
Bonfires were popular in the Slavic and Celtic people groups, and after the rise of Christianity, many of these celebrations were incorporated into the Christian religion.
Here in the Northwest, we choose to celebrate Summer….all summer long. Happy Summer Solstice!