10 Fun Things You Can Do For Summer Solstice
This coming weekend, those living in the Northern Hemisphere will be preparing for the Summer Solstice. This is the time when the sun has reached its northernmost point in the sky. For those living in the region, this marks the longest day of the year. With Summer Solstice, the Earth tilts 23.4 degrees to its orbit. This will make the sun appear like it is rising and falling in the sky throughout the year. In the Southern Hemisphere, Saturday will be the shortest day of the year as they prepare for “winter solstice” there.
But even if Summer Solstice starts this Saturday, you would still not experience the warmest days yet but only after a month or two later. The explanation to this is that it may still take some time for the Earth to warm up in summer and cool down in winter.
Summer Solstice officially marks the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also called midsummer because it represent the halfway mark of the growing season for farmers and gardeners. It brings to a close the time of the day when the hours of daylight are longer and the nights are shorter. At one point, it was even believed that Summer Solstice marks the period when the sun stopped moving in the sky. After all, solstice came from the Latin words sol which means “sun”and sistere meaning “to stand still.
Summer Solstice ushers in the Northern Hemisphere’s midsummer. Bur since it is midwinter in the Southern Hemisphere, it can also be called the Northern Solstice.
Summer Solstice Explained
In the solstice chart, the celestial equator is marked in red. The numbers mark hours of right ascencion, which represents the celestial equivalent of longitude on the Earth’s surface. Zero hours represents the vernal equinox, the region where the path of the sun crosses the celestial equator going to the north. During summer solstice, the sun is at a right ascension of 6 hours.
The green line marks the ecliptic , the sun’s path across the celestial sphere. The sun, moving from right to left across the chart, is about to leave Taurus and enter Gemini. Jupiter and Venus appear symmetrically placed on either side of the sun. Both are located on the far side of the sun but Jupiter appears to be moving from left to right while Venus is moving from right to left. Jupiter will pass behind the sun on July 24 while Venus will pass behind the star moving in the opposite direction on October 25.
During the summer, days are much longer because the sun rises earlier in the morning and sets later at night. Since the North Pole of the earth is tilted towards the sun, those in the Northern Hemisphere will receive more sunlight. As the earth moves in its orbit, the tilt of the North Pole changes. When tilted away from the sun, it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
Summer Solstice in History
For most ancient civilizations, the summer solstice was a day of great significance. They welcomed it with festivals, celebrations, and other observances, of which some are still being practiced to this very day. Here are some ways that ancient civilizations practiced the coming of this day:
According to some versions of the Greek calendar, summer solstice marks the start of the first day of the year. To commemorate the event, several festivals were held including Kronia, in honor of the agriculture god Cronus. During this time, the social code was switched with slaves celebrating the occasion as equals or even being served by their masters. Summer Solstice for the ancient Greeks also signified the start of the one-month countdown to the opening of the Olympic Games.
Days prior to the arrival of Summer Solstice, the ancient Romans celebrated the Vestalia Festival honoring Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. Some of the rituals performed during this day included sacrificing an unborn calf removed from its mother’s womb. Of all the times of the year, this was the only exception when married women were allowed entry to the sacred temple of the vestal virgins to offer to Vesta.
The ancient Chinese held ceremonies honoring the earth, feminimity, and the yin. The ceremonies complemented the ceremonies held during the winter solstice honoring the heavens, masculinity, and the yang.
“Ancient Northern and Central European Tribes
Among Germanic, Slavic, and Celtic pagans, summer was welcomed with bonfires, which up to this day is still being practiced in Germany, Austria, Estonia, and other countries. Ancient tribes even had ceremonies wherein couples would jump through flames to determine the height of that year’s crops would grow.
Summer solstice was quite significant for the Nordic seafarers to discuss legal matters and resolve disputes. They also visited wells believed to have healing powers and build huge bonfires. Among the modern day Vikings, summer solstice celebrations was quite popular among both residents and tourists in Iceland.
Many native American tribes participated in centuries-old rituals which are still being practiced today. The Sioux, for example, performed a ceremonial sun dance around a tree donning symbolic colors.
Mayans and Aztecs
Although there is no record of how pre-Columbian civilizations of Central America celebrated summer solstice, the ruins of this once mighty civilizations proved the significance of that day. Temples, public buildings, and other structures were often precisely aligned with the shadows of both the summer and winter solstices.
The Celtic high priests known as Druids likely spearheaded rituals during summer solstice but they were unlikely held at the Stonehenge. To this very day, modern Druids continued this practice of converging at the monument during summer and winter solstice, and spring and autumn equinox.
In Sweden, Midsummer is celebrated by dancing around a decorated pole, folk music, flower decorations for the home, and longer time in the sauna. In Scandinavia, people converge to eat pickled herring or fresh fish, potatoes, vodka shots, and enjoy the first strawberries of the season. Danish version includes a straw witch which symbolizes the country’s 17th century witch burnings.
Closed for several years, Stonehenge reopened for the 1999 summer solstice celebration. To this very day, the event attracts over 20,000 participants from those who just want to see the dawn to the white-robed druids who observe the sun rising over the Heel stone. Today, neo-pagan purists are complaining that too many people treat summer solstice as a pre-party for Glastonbury Festival, thus diminishing the significance of the different ceremonies potentially damaging the ancient site.
In pagan times, fires were ignited honoring the sun god as well as marks the victory of light over darkness.
Beliefs about Summer Solstice
With the sun being at its highest point, Summer Solstice was traditionally a celebration honoring the life giving and regenerative powers of the solar orb. Among the pagans, rituals were associated to fertility, ripening of crops, and seasons reaching full circle.
The ancient Celts once believed that Summer Solstice was the perfect time to drive away evil spirits and demons. They believed that the warmth of the sun had the power to drive away any darkness or negativity and that it was the time to create abundance and wealth.
In ancient times, people relied on the cycles of nature in order to survive and fully believed that their rituals and religious practices maintained the continuity of the seasons, successful crops and livestocks, and the clemency of the weather. For our ancestors, Summer Solstice was the perfect time to celebrate the end of the long winter and that they could find sufficient food again to guarantee full stomach every night and have relaxation.
In 1985, authorities stopped a convoy of around 100 vehicles from setting up a celebration. This encounter resulted to the notorious Battle of the Beanfield, an incident that involved a riot between police and travellers. Eventually, this incident symbolized discontent on the margins of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s intolerant Britain.
Getting Ready For Summer Solstice
Summer solstice was celebrated with different varieties of festivals and celebrations. Here are some suggested things you can do to prepare for Summer Solstice:
1. Go stargazing
The arrival of Summer Solstice provides a perfect opportunity to watch the stars and the skies at night. Arm yourself with binoculars and telescopes, find a dark area and watch the stars. If you do not have an idea of what to look for, print out a constellation chart or check some books at the library.
2. Watch the sunrise or sunset
Check the time of sunrise or sunset in your area. Armed with the information, you can either get up early or stay up late. You can search for the times on the Internet or through this site.
3. Light a bonfire
Bonfire lighting is one of the traditions celebrating Summer Solstice. Fire has always been a symbol of protection for human beings as they have the ability to scare off beings at night, whether real or magical. Now, you can relive the tradition and have a bonfire with your friends. Just select a safe location where lighting a bonfire is allowed. You can check this with your local authority. You can roast some hotdogs and marshmallows.
4. Plan some travel
Summer Solstice is also the perfect time to visit some of the destinations where the event has been traditionally celebrated for centuries. The Stonehenge is a must-see when reliving Summer Solstice celebrations. You can treat yourself to a spectacular view of the sunrise at the destination. Other suggested destinations are the Sedona in Arizona and Cairo where an ancient sun temple was found in 2006.
5. Go swimming or have a picnic with the family
Of course, summer would never be complete without going swimming or on a picnic with the family. There might be a FREE water play area or splash pad in the local parks or recreation centers in your area. Just make sure you apply enough sunscreen and bring lots of healthy snacks and drinking water. You can have the picnic in swimming in one go so bring lots of food as well.
6. Consolidate your energy
Take advantage of the warmer days ahead to develop yourself and consolidate your energy. You can plan to lose weight, rearrange your home, or start a new diet regimen. There are plenty of things that you can do for the summer so do take advantage of the opportunity. You can also consider growing a herb and vegetable garden. This endeavor can be a great way to give yourself self-fulfillment.
7. Go camping
Why go somewhere else to go camping when you can do it in your very own backyard? All you need is a tent and some basic camping gear.
8. Get a new look
With summer coming, it’s time to give yourself a makeover. You can give yourself the time to update your wardrobe or get a new hairstyle. Sell your unwanted clothes, give it charity, or just keep it in a box. Take advantage of summer to build your fashion sense and boost your self-confidence.
9. Appreciate nature
Summer is a great time to get out and enjoy everything that Mother Nature has to offer. You can go hiking, indulge in sports and outdoor activities, or go mountain climbing.
10. Pause and reflect
If you are not really the outdoor and adventurous type of a guy, you can just simply use the coming summer for self-reflection. Think of the things that you have done during the winter and assess them carefully during the summer. Pause and ask yourself “What went wrong?” Look back at the goals you have set for yourself and see if you strayed from them or still aligned with what you want to achieve. Summer is the perfect time to reinvigorate yourself and make the necessary adjustments to achieve your goals.
These are just some of the things that you can indulge in to celebrate and enjoy Summer Solstice. The important thing is for you to have fun and make the most out of the event.
Melvin L. Magadia
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