21 June 2010Features
Although it’s been feeling like summer for weeks now, June 21st officially marks the first day of summer! Often referred to as the “Summer Solstice”, this marks a major celestial event resulting in the longest day of the year, and the shortest night of the year. On the day of the solstice, the sun appears to stand still, which is where it gets its name; A combination of the Latin terms “Sol” meaning “sun”, and “Stice” meaning “to stand still”.
Early Celebrations of the Summer Solstice
For centuries civilizations have been influenced by the sun, and have celebrated the Summer Solstice in a variety of different ways and by a variety of different names. Some call it “Midsummer”,(Shakespeare, anyone?), “St. John’s Day”, or the Wiccan “Litha”.
Ancient Egyptians built the pyramids so that the solstice sunset, when viewed from the sphinx, sets directly between two of the Pyramids. Also, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom has been associated with the winter and summer solstices for about 5,000 years.
Druids celebrated this day as the “wedding of Heaven and Earth”, resulting in today’s common belief that it is “lucky” to have your wedding in June.
Midsummer celebrations for Pagans went a little something like this: They would celebrate with bonfires and couples would leap through the flames, believing that their crops would grow as high as they were able to jump. Better hope it was pretty high!
Pagans were also known to wear protective garlands made of herbs and flowers on Midsummer, as this was thought to be a time of magic where evil spirits were likely to appear. The most popular and “powerful” plant used for protection was St. John’s Wort; hence the name “St. John’s Day”.
The Midsummer moon was referred to as the “Honey Moon” for the mead that was made from fermented honey that was part of the wedding ceremonies performed at the summer solstice.
The most notable celebration of the Summer Solstice is in England at Stonehenge and Avebury where thousands gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.
If you are not going to be near Stonehenge at sunrise to celebrate the beginning of summer, maybe a day at the pool or a cookout with the family will suffice as a nice kick-off to summer! Enjoy!