Summer Solstice: the first day of Summer
Summer in the northern hemisphere usually falls around June to August, which is marked by holiday trips abroad, summer festivities and garden parties. However, among the fun and excitement of summer falls the longest day of the year and a celebration that dates back to pre-Christian times: the summer solstice.
In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice is an annual event that falls either on the 20th or 21st of June. This happens whenever the tilt of the Earth is most inclined toward the sun.
During the summer solstice, the sun passes the highest position in the sky. This does not frequently happen in Europe because of the tilt of the Earth; on the other hand, the Philippines is situated at the equator of the Earth, where the sun passes the highest position in the sky everyday around noontime.
A quick scientific explanation of the summer solstice in Europe
The day of the summer solstice is also considered the longest day in the northern hemisphere and is the official day of the start of summer.
The summer solstice also coincides with pagan and Christian celebrations called Midsummer and St John the Baptist Day.
Celebrations through history
Much of the current celebrations surrounding the summer solstice stems from the importance of calendar marking for ancient humans. The sun’s movements were used in the past to mark the seasons, guiding ancient men during planting and harvest times. It is for the purpose of tracking the sun that giant monoliths like Stonehenge near Salisbury, England were erected.
Stonehenge in Wiltshire
During that period, agricultural abundance and richness were tied with the gods. This is how the pagan traditions of Midsummer came to be. Whenever that day comes, the people celebrated with ritual dances, flowery and other nature decorations, folk music and worship.
In many pagan European traditions, Midsummer was also tied with magic and luck. But at the time of the Christian conquest, these pagan rituals were replaced by the feast of St John the Baptist.
According to Biblical history, St John was born on the 24th of June. Celebrations are usually done at summer solstice day and the festivities are often similar to the pagan traditions, which include bonfires, bathing in the river and feasting.
Community dancing during the solstice
Modern celebrations of summer solstice have also been connected to health. Psychological tests have somewhat established the link between levels of happiness and amount of sunlight. Since countries in the northern hemisphere tend to have longer nights, it is possible that the celebratory mood during summer solstice is also subconsciously linked to the fact there is more sunlight on that day.
There is no specific way to celebrate summer solstice today. But among many Brits, visiting the Stonehenge to welcome the first day of summer has become a tradition, especially to those who subscribe to pagan and ancient beliefs.
During summer solstice, the usually roped-off Stonehenge is open to the public. Neo-druids and new age believers make a pilgrimage to Stonehenge and hold a Free Festival to celebrate the pagan rituals of the past.
Druids lead traditional celebrations in Stonehenge
Many people also view summer solstice as simply a day that marks the start of their long holiday and the beginning of summer festivals.