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Cool Facts About Summer Solstice 2020

12 things you didn’t know about the official first day of summer.

Jul 13, 2020

Summer is upon us!  How do we know?  School is out!  But really, what day marks the official start of summer?  According to meteorologists, summer starts on June 1st.  Others think it starts after Memorial Day.  Officially, though, it begins on the Summer Solstice, an important astrological event which falls on Saturday, June 20th, at 5:44 P.M. EDT this year in the Northern Hemisphere. 

The summer solstice occurs sometime between June 20 and June 22 in the Northern Hemisphere and between December 20 and December 23 in the Southern Hemisphere. The summer solstice occurs sometime between June 20 and June 22 in the Northern Hemisphere and between December 20 and December 23 in the Southern Hemisphere.
 

It’s the longest day and shortest night of the year, and it’s when the sun sits at its highest, northern-most position in the sky.  (In the southern hemisphere, winter begins on this day.)  People throughout the ages have celebrated the summer solstice with rituals, feasts, decorations and bonfires.  This year, we have something extra to look forward to—An annular solar eclipse.

The ring of fire will happen on June 21st of this year.The ring of fire will happen on June 21st of this year.
 

An Annular Solar Eclipse - How Cool is That?!

This type of eclipse is called a “ring of fire” because the moon will pass between the earth and sun, but won’t totally block the sun out.  This creates a ring of sunlight around the moon’s edges.  It can only happen when the moon is far enough away from the earth to make it look small in the sky, otherwise the moon would totally block out the sun to create a total eclipse.

It’s happening on June 21st, hours after the summer solstice.  According to Space.com, it will begin in India and people in parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia will see it.  North Americans won’t be able to see it in person.  We’ll have to wait until June 2021 to see a similar phenomenon, when a partial eclipse is anticipated above the United States.

Watch a livestreamed Stonehenge event on the summer solstice, June 20th.Watch a livestreamed Stonehenge event on the summer solstice, June 20th.

Summer Solstice Fun Facts

  • The entire hemisphere will enjoy at least 12 hours of sunlight that day, and the long days will continue for several weeks following the solstice.
  • Humans may have begun observing the summer solstice during the stone age.  People may have used it as a marker to figure out when to plant and harvest crops.

The sun sets between the Egyptian pyramid of Khufu and Khafra on the solstice.The sun sets between the Egyptian pyramids of Khufu and Khafra on the solstice.
  • 5,000 years ago, ancient peoples placed gigantic stones in a circle, in a clearing located in what’s now England, to coincide with the June solstice sunrise—This is the legendary Stonehenge.  Some archeologists believe it was built for solstice rituals.
  • Every year, thousands gather at Stonehenge at Wiltshire, England on the summer solstice to celebrate the longest day of the year.  This year, due to COVID-19, the event will be livestreamed only.  You can watch it from home!  Check online for details.

Celebrate summer with a bonfire, just like ancient cultures did.Celebrate summer with a bonfire, just like ancient cultures did.
  • The two great Egyptian pyramids and the famous Sphinx are thought by many to have been built around the solstice. Standing at the Sphinx, you can see the sun set directly between the pyramids on that day.
  • The June solstice is sometimes called Midsummer by people living in Northern Europe.  In ancient times, they’d have bonfires during Midsummer.  The people believed the bonfires would banish evil and strengthen the sun for a good growing season.
  • People who observe Wiccan or other pagan traditions may call it Litha.  Ancient pagans believed evil spirits appeared on Litha, and wore garlands and flowers to protect themselves.

People used to believe that flower garlands would banish evil spirits on Litha.People used to believe that flower garlands would banish evil spirits on Litha.
  • In ancient Greece, the solstice marked the one-month countdown to the opening of the Olympic games.
  • The ancient Greeks, Romans, Native Americans and Chinese aligned rituals or festivals with the solstice.  In China, “yin,” or the feminine force, was celebrated during this time.

The yin yang symbol stands for balance in the universe.  Ancient Chinese cultures celebrated the earth and the yin force on the summer solstice.The yin yang symbol stands for balance in the universe. Ancient Chinese cultures celebrated the earth and the yin force on the summer solstice.
  • Why isn’t the summer solstice the hottest day of the year?  Because it takes a while for the Earth to warm up again after a long winter.  That’s why summer’s hottest months usually come in July or August.
  • Peoples around the world continue to celebrate the summer solstice with feasts, picnics, bonfires, and flower garlands.  In Scandinavia, it’s an official holiday that’s almost as popular as Christmas.

Sweden is in full bloom on Midsummer, with celebrations, singing and dancing.Sweden is in full bloom on Midsummer, with celebrations, singing and dancing.

How can we celebrate summer solstice this year at home?  Many people think the added light and warmth makes it a good time for healing and growth.  Just like the earth rejuvenates and plants rebloom, so can we.  So relax, slather on your sunscreen, bask in the summer solstice glow, and maybe even have a picnic or a bonfire.  Happy summer!

How will you celebrate the summer solstice this year?How will you celebrate the summer solstice this year?
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