The Summer Solstice
The Summer Solstice is the name given to the longest day of the year and it falls on June 21st. However, that is only here in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere they will experience their shortest day of the year. Here the sun will be at its height each day as it crosses the sky, while in the south their winter will then begin. This astrological event is caused by the earth tilting on its axis and the motion in orbit around the sun. This is caused by the fact that the earth doesn’t orbit in an upright position as it is tilted on its axis by 23 ½ degrees. The word ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin ‘SOLSTITIUM’ - ‘sol’ (sun) and ‘stitium’ (standing), which highlights the fact that the sun does appear to stop moving when it reaches the northern (or southernmost) point. After the solstice it appears to go back in the opposite direction. The sun actually sets more slowly around the time of the solstice and takes longer to set below the horizon. This is due to the angle of the setting sun.
CHINESE PERSPECTIVE – The Chinese associate summertime with the colour red, the heart organ and the happy sound of laughter and fire. China is a country which studies the changes in nature and applies those principals in a variety of areas, such as the growth of plants, work, children’s development, and life.
SWEDISH TRADITIONS – In Sweden it is traditional in Summer Solstice to celebrate the beginning of summer by eating the first strawberries of the season. This tradition links to June’s full moon being also known as The Strawberry Moon. They also celebrate Midsummer’s Eve by dancing around bonfires, lit to highlight the shortest night of the year. These northern people have lived through a long, cold dark winter, so lighting bonfires and torches lights up the mountainsides in recognition of the changes coming.
STONEHENGE – This is probably the most recognised site across the world for the celebration of the Sumer Solstice. It is constructed using two different types of stone. The largest piece weighs over 40 tons and the pieces were transported over 150 miles from the Preseli Hills in Wales, to construct this iconic masterpiece! For thousands of years people have gathered at the structure to watch the sunrise on the Summer Solstice. These days the site is cornered off, but this is one of the occasions when members of the public are allowed to enter the stone circle. There have always been mysterious beliefs and rituals linked to the site going back as far as the Neolithic and Bronze Age people. The sites of Stonehenge and nearby Avebury cover over 10 square miles and includes avenues, settlements, healing centres and around 350 burial sites. It is believed that Stonehenge construction began around 3000 B.C. and started off as a circular earthen bank next to an adjacent ditch. Over the next few thousand years it was fortified with timbers, then stones. The final arrangement which we see today has pieces as high as 24 feet. It is considered that the weight and height, along with the long distance that the stones were shifted, could only have happened in an advanced society!
Its ceremonial design is unprecedented anywhere else in the world! The first 1600 feet of the avenue from the Stonehenge construction is built on the axis of the summer solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset. It is not known if this alignment was designed and constructed for sun worship, or maybe calendar keeping, though there will be other unknown reasons that are possible.