The Summer Solstice has been celebrated in some way or another for thousands of years. During the month of June various religions celebrate seasonal holy days that are in some way linked to the Summer Solstice. On that day in the Northern Hemisphere there is more daylight than at any other time of the year. The Winter Solstice, or the day with the least daylight, occurs in December in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere the solstices reverse; the most daylight occurs in December, the least in June.
The Origin of Solstice Celebrations
"Solstice" comes from two Latin words: "sol" (meaning sun) and "sistere," (to cause to stand still). The annual seasons happen because of two things: 1) a 23.5° tilt of the earth's axis, which makes the earth rotate like a gyroscope, so it points continuously in a fixed direction-toward the area of space near the North Star; and 2) the earth continuously revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit-once every 365.25 of our solar days. As a result, for half of the year the Southern Hemisphere is more exposed to the sun than the Northern Hemisphere, and for the other half of the year the reverse is true. At noontime in the Northern Hemisphere the sun appears high in the sky during summer and low in the sky during winter. The sun's lowest elevation occurs on or about December 21 and is called the Winter Solstice-the first day of winter, when nighttime hours are at a maximum. The sun reaches its maximum elevation on the day with the greatest number of daylight hours, called the Summer Solstice, which is typically on June 21-the first day of summer.
This is officially the first day of summer, also called Midsummer because it comes roughly during the midst of the growing season in Europe.
Summer was a very joyous occasion for Aboriginal people in the northern latitudes during prehistoric times. The snow had disappeared, the ground thawed, warm temperatures returned, and with them the ability to grow food. Animals and wild food became easy to find. Flowers bloomed and leaves returned to the trees, and with these came herbal medicines ancient people could use to cure themselves of illness. Since the crops had already been planted, people felt safe knowing that harvest was months ahead. They enjoyed the warm weather and the safety it made them feel. Although winter would eventually return, they felt safe knowing that warm weather meant life and comfort.
This is also the traditional time for weddings. Although originally holding weddings in June was a way to pay respect to ancient fertility rites, it is still the popular month for weddings, religious or secular.
The Date and Time of the Summer Solstice
The exact date of the solstice varies from year to year, but usually may occur between the 20th and 23rd of June.
Upcoming Summer Solstice Dates and Times:
2004: June 21@00:56
Times are in UT (Universal Time). This used to be called Greenwich Mean Time or GMT.