The Longest Day

Today is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and I found a little information about the earliest recognition of this event.  Our ancestors were very observant about the sky and their immediate surroundings.  They studied the formations, planted and harvested by the moon phases, and looked for any reason to throw a party – or so it would seem.  After all, they didn’t have wide screen televisions, hand held computer games, or wi-fi.

The summer solstice marks the longest day of sunlight in the entire year – over fourteen hours.  Which makes me wonder why it isn’t the hottest day of the year as well.  But, apparently the earth begins to lose moisture and retain warmth as the days of summer wear on, and we build up heat a little like an oven.  That is my less than scientific take on atmospheric conditions.

The word ‘solstice’ is a latin combination of the word for sun ‘sol’ and to stand still ‘stice’.  As the sun rises higher and higher in the sky, it appears to just stand still.

This is another of those scientific quandries that never ceases to amaze me.  Why does the sun look further away in summer and closer to earth in winter?  Since you are probably still reeling from my ‘oven’ description, I’ll save this one for another day.

The ancients honored this day with a lot of dancing and bonfires and the Druids celebrated it as a wedding of heaven and earth.  This may have been the forerunner of lucky June weddings.

And the honey wine that they made – called meade – was the drink of the celebration.  So they referred to the new moon at this solstice as the ‘honey moon’.

But why the bonfires for the summer solstice?  Don’t we normally associate bonfires with winter activities?  Seems like they were very superstitious and believed that as the sun began its descent back toward shorter days, the spirits of the mischievous gods could walk among the humans unless they confused them by keeping lots of light on earth.

Many believe that the construction of Stonehenge may have been to harness the energy from this event and celebrations are still held there on this day.

Perhaps the celebrations, fueled with lots of meade, better explain Stonehenge.  Gather a bunch of cavemen, get them drinking, and they’ll do anything on a dare.  I bet they were attempting to build an ancient forerunner to dominoes and sobered up or ran out of large boulders, before they snaked it around Europe.

Also called, Midsummer, its rituals bewitched Shakespeare and many other authors over the years. It was the time for fertility and growth and tree planting is still common among some cultures.

However you choose to celebrate today, by planting, dancing, or partying by bonfire, get outside and enjoy this extra long day of summer!

And check out Hungry Brownie’s blog on the Fremont Solstice Parade.   Karen takes some of the mystery out of the date that solstice falls on over at her site.

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  1. Did check this out…I learned in school that it was June 21st, but sites say it’s around June 20-21st, so I learned once again that the science books of my youth were incomplete and inexact. Thanks for posting. I love this time of year…would love to see Stonehenge. Supposed to be very hot today and tomorrow in NYC, so we’ll see if it is indeed the hottest days of this year…in NYC. We’re moving to almost 14 hours of sunlight here….love it. 5:24 am sunrise to 8:30 sunset…of course, there is backglow so it seems later than 8:30.

  2. Here it’s on the 21st June. I hate that date. Because it means, even if ever so slowly, days getting shorter again. Yeah, any minute now it’ll be Christmas. People love me when I say that.

    Greetings from your little ray of sunshine,

  3. It looks like today will be a record breaker for heat so you may just get that hottest day of the year thing as well. I am headed to a Habitat for Humanity build and am thinking about how long and hot it will be.

      1. I wasn’t actually working for them. I am doing some writing about the build.

  4. So far, I’ve spent most of the morning out water, feeding and trimming plants….and feeding swans and ducks.
    Happy Summer!

  5. Hi,
    The universe is very mysterious. 🙂
    Here in Oz we of course have the Southern solstice which occurs for us in December which is our Summer.

      1. Yes in some parts of Oz our Winter must be like your Spring in a way I suppose, especially here in Queensland, but to me of course it is very cold. 😀

  6. Loved reading all these facts. I never knew that about Honey moon.My daughter is already fascinated with the calendar and events. So this morning she was tapping my shoulder while I was sleeping to wake me up and say, “Hey, Mom! It’s almost summer today!” You’d think it was her birthday she was so excited.

    1. With your allergies, does that fill you with a sense of foreboding? Wouldn’t it be nice to have the excitement of young children again for the summer holiday?

  7. having lived in Alaska for four years I know when the solstice finally came break up was considered over and the month and a half of spring/summer was officially here! It also ended what we could see of the Northern lights which saddened me a bit.

    1. Month and half? Wow. This reminds me of a comment made by a man we met in Montana. When we asked him about the summer there, he thought for a moment and then said, “It was a nice day!” Yeah, we take for granted these long days of summer.

  8. I love the long days of summer! Summer days are particularly long here in Alaska, when the sun comes up about 3:30 and the last light fades from the sky around 10:00. Gives new meaning to “summer afternoon.” Our afternoons are very elongated indeed!
    Hey, I like your scientific explanations…sounds about right to me! ~ Sheila

      1. Well, we are far enough south that we don’t have quite the extremes that the northern parts of the state experience. If you really want to see the midnight sun you will probably have to go at least to Anchorage. For sure you would see it in the Arctic. And in the Nov/Dec/Jan time of year, you only get a little twilight around noon in the Arctic. But when the sun comes back, the light has an amazing quality I’ve never seen anywhere else. Yes, you should visit Alaska! I wouldn’t recommend living here, unless you’re interested in buying a house in Ketchikan?…but it’s great to visit! ~ Sheila

  9. Well, I’ve learned me a little something by coming here today. I think the hottest days are over here in the desert though. And like the ancestors, the women over here are always looking for reasons to throw a party too.

    1. That is interesting. I don’t think of Middle Eastern Women as being big partiers, so I am learning too. You definitely win in the heat department. I don’t think we can beat the desert heat.

      1. Outside of shopping, weddings and domesticity, there is so little else. In Saudi Arabia, that is. Other middle eastern women say this is an extreme lifestyle. Now, of course the parties aren’t parties as we know them. It’s a way for them to get together and socialize. Though weddings are a big thing here. Someone’s always getting married.

  10. There is still a hint of the mystical about the summer solstice, I think. I will admit to being quite enamoured of it. It really is a special time of year!

    1. It feels like all of the fairies have been loosed on the earth. Perhaps I read too many novels about such things when I was younger. But it is indeed special.

  11. You share the neatest info. I always wondered where honeymoon came from. I had to laugh at your Stonehenge theory. It sounds right to me. lol I wish you’d written the history books, I think I’d of learned more in school. 😉

  12. Summer solstice here in Provence is amazing. Nearly every single town has a Fete de la Musique and everyone is out in the streets singing and dancing. We celebrated it at Cassis this year. It’s one of my favorite days of the year!

  13. Renee I love your blog due to these kind of stuffs. You always share some interesting facts in a beautiful way. I really like your Oven Description. :))

  14. This summer we spent that special day in the Southern part of Finland in the city called Tampere. Sunset there was at Sunset at 11:20 pm.

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