Summer Solstice: The First Day of Summer
Summer solstice is the first day of summer - it's usually between June 20th and June 23rd. In 2016, the summer solstice takes place on June 20th. We know it's summer because the earth's axis tilts toward the sun from June to September - this means warmer weather and longer days. For people who live in the Southern Hemisphere, (basically the other side of the world from North America), they will have colder weather and shorter days.
Summer solstice is the longest day of the year. This doesn't mean our day has more than 24 hours in it - we just have more sunlight than any other day. On the summer solstice we get between 15 and 20 hours of sunlight, depending on where you're located in the world. This occasion is also called Midsummer because it is almost in the middle of the growing season throughout most of Europe.
- Ancient Rome - Bring out the food! The Festival of Vestalia went on from June 7th to June 15th in preparation for summer. It was held in honor of the Roman goddess of the hearth, Vesta. Married women were allowed to enter the Vesta shrine during this festival. Normally, only virgins were allowed inside.
- Ancient Sweden - In each town a tree was set up and villagers danced around the Midsummer tree. Women and girls gave up their bathtubs and washed in the local river instead. This ritual was supposed to be magical and bring rain for the crops.
- Native Americans - The Natchez tribe in the southern US worshipped the sun because they believed their ruler came from it. Every summer they had a fruit festival. Nobody was allowed to harvest any corn until after the feast.
How can you take advantage of this long day? Here are a few ideas!
- Go outside, take off your shoes and socks and walk bare foot on the grass.
- Buy a bag of balloons. Fill them up with water and have a water balloon fight.
- Wash your dog in your backyard.
- Put some pop in the ice cube tray and freeze it. When it gets hot out, you have something cool to suck on.
- Hang out in the sun and do nothing. But don't forget to put on sunscreen.
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