The longest day of the year — the summer solstice — is almost here. On June 21 2013, at exactly 1:04 am EDT (5:04 UTC), the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth will reach its point of greatest inclination to the Sun. The term ‘summer solstice’ generally refers to the exact moment in time when this occurs, but also to the day. The day, and also the general period in time, are also referred to as midsummer. The summer solstice is an important holiday in much of the Northern Hemisphere, and was very important to many ancient cultures.
While the cultural symbols associated with the summer solstice of course vary significantly between different cultures — the solstice was invariably an important time. The general themes that seem to have been associated with it are fertility, fire, celebration, healing, and magic. Many of the celebrations seem to have been accompanied by large bonfires (especially on shorelines), feasting, singing, dancing, and the gathering of medicinal/magic plants.
The solstice was/is thought to be the time “when the forces of nature are at their most powerful, and the boundaries between the physical and spiritual worlds are thinnest.” The term used in modern times — solstice — is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).
Some of the other names that the summer solstice goes by are: Adonia, St. John’s Feast Day, Līgo, Liða, Midsommar, Ivan Kupala Day, Juhannus, Alban Hefin, Gŵyl Ganol yr Haf, Sankthans, Jaanipäev, Keskikesä, and Rasos.
A final note — those in many of the world’s more northerly regions will have the good fortune to celebrate the solstice with a full 24 hours of daylight. And even in regions that aren’t quite northern enough to get a full 24 hours of daylight, the extremely long twilights are quite nice. Enjoy. 🙂