June 21, 2011 to some will just be another Tuesday, however to others it marks the 2011 summer solstice. Solstice is derived from two Latin words, sol meaning sun and sistere to cause to stand still. The sun stands still in the sky as it reaches its peak in height during the summer solstice.
The longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice brings about 15 hours of sunlight to New Yorkers while the North Pole begins the season where the sun does not set at all. Sweden is the land of the midnight sun and Alaska sees about 21 hours of sun in its capital of Juneau. In the Southern Hemisphere the summer solstice occurs usually around December or January, opposite the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice.
It is a good thing that earth reaches its furthest distance away from the sun during the summer solstice; because that means that we are not dealing with the extreme temperatures. On January 1st of this year the Earth reached its perihelion or the point in orbit where we are closest with the sun. Shortly after the second solar eclipse, the last of the three this month, the Earth shall be furthest away from the sun on July 6th, 2011 and this is known as Earth’s aphelion.
Last night I was playing softball and glancing at my watch I noticed how at 8:30 pm EST, it was still light enough out to play without ball park lights. It is a big difference from the winter months where I would get up to go to work and it would be dark out at 4 am EST and than on the train ride home around 4:30-5:00 pm EST the sun would be setting. Gets to be depressing after a while, but fortunately it is short lived as the summer solstice sweeps across the Northern Hemisphere bringing light and warmth for the majority of our days.
The summer solstice has been known as a joyous time of year throughout history and folklore. The grand sexual union between Gods and Goddesses is known as Beltaine and this was known to occur in May. Weddings between mortals became popular in June right around the summer solstice after pushing them back as to not interfere with the deities and their celebrations.
Honey became a featured dish or beverage at weddings because it was believed to encourage love and fertility. In June the first or only full moon is known as the Honey Moon, as beehives are ripe to harvest the honey that has been produced within the hives. Falling between the Spring and Autumn Solstice, known as the planting and harvesting months, the summer solstice tends to be laden with weddings and love.
Festivals and ceremonies pay homage to the beliefs and rituals of the summer solstice. In ancient China, the summer solstice features a ceremony celebrating the earth, feminine and the yin forces.
Ancient Rome, the festival of Vestalia is held in honor of the roman Goddess of the hearth, Vesta. Over the course of a few days married women are allowed to enter into the shrine of Vesta, whereas normally only vestal virgins were permitted inside.
In ancient Sweden a setting up and decorating a Midsummer tree in each town, where the villagers would than dance around it as women and girls bath in the local river, celebrating the summer solstice. This magical ritual was said to bring rain for the crops that had been planted during the spring solstice.
In Christianity the summer solstice marks the feast day of St. John the Baptist just a few day’s before his birthday. St. John was the forerunner of Jesus as midsummer marks the eventual arrival of the winter solstice on December 21st.
Warm and glorious shall be the days to come after the summer solstice, Tuesday June 21st. The long sweet light of the summer shall bring relief to the darkness that has been upon the world over the last few months. Energy runs high as the summer solstice allows life to feel smooth, pleasant and enjoyable.