Today is the longest day of the year. Woo-hoo! More light. More Sun! Hopefully you will have the chance to go outside and enjoy it. In the meantime, here are some interesting facts about the solstice.
The summer solstice occurs when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. As the solstice approaches, the sun moves higher and higher until it reaches its apex. On the day of the solstice, its movement is almost imperceptible as it stops its climb before its declination. Thus, the origins of its name– Sol=sun sistere=to stand still.
The solstice has been celebrated throughout history. The Celts and Slavs celebrated with dancing and fires which they thought would help increase the sun’s strength. It was also a time to celebrate fertility because crops were growing, flowers were blooming and certain herbs were ready for harvest. Druids recognized it as the day of union between the heaven and the earth. It’s from this tradition that June weddings are considered to be lucky. The phrase honeymoon comes from solstice celebrations as well. June’s full moon was referred to as the honey moon because hives were full of honey during this time. It was harvested and used in meade and foods to celebrate the solstice and marriage.
Some cultures believed that evil spirits came out at this time and they used fires and wreaths and garlands of herbs and flowers to protect themselves. An herb called “devil chase” was commonly used and was later named St. John’s Wort.
When Christianity spread through Europe the solstice was appropriated as the feast of St. John, celebrating the birth of John the Baptist. In Scandinavian countries, Midsummer is still a popular celebration involving parades, dancing and other festivities. Some people still flock to sights like Stonehenge and Avebury to celebrate till dawn and watch the sun rise.
Whether you light a fire and wear coronets of flowers on your head or bask in the sun a little longer today, Happy Solstice!