Summer Solstice Fun Facts
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Solar Power1 of 13
By Megan McCrary
Hooray! Summer officially begins on June 21, 2013, the longest day of year in the Northern Hemisphere. That prior evening, at exactly 10:04PM PDT, the North Pole will tilt directly toward the sun at about 23.5 degrees, while the sun will reach its farthest distance from the equator, marking the summer solstice. Find out what the occasion means, and how it's celebrated around the globe.
Shine On2 of 13
Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol, meaning "sun," and sistere, meaning "to stand still." As the days become increasingly longer, the sun climbs higher and higher in the sky until it appears to stand still. Once the sun has reached its climax at the summer solstice, it will begin to descend as the days become increasingly shorter in the Northern Hemisphere until the winter solstice. In the northernmost parts of Finland and Norway, the sun won't set for months.
Sunny Delight3 of 13
In northern European countries such as Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway, the summer solstice (or midsummer, as it's often called) is referred to as the day that never ends. It's celebrated with bonfires, outdoor festivals, singing, dancing and food.
Floral Arrangement4 of 13
Midsommardagen is Sweden's traditional midsummer festival, observed throughout the country and in full bloom during the month of June. On Midsummer's Eve, which is always on a Friday, young girls place nine different flowers under their pillows to dream of their future husbands, while on Midsummer's Day, flower wreaths are worn while men, women and children dance around the maypole.
Set in Stone5 of 13
For thousands of years, the summer solstice has been worshipped and celebrated at Stonehenge, near Salisbury, England. Today, thousands of Druids and others gather at the sacred site, which is open for free to the public, to greet the rising sun on the longest day of the year. Throughout the night, people play music, perform rituals and party till dawn.
Flood Tracker6 of 13
The summer solstice was especially important for the ancient Egyptians since it signaled the annual flooding of the Nile River. To keep track of the day, the pyramids were built so that the solstice sunset fell exactly between two of them when viewed from the Great Sphinx.
On the Mark7 of 13
Perhaps the most remarkable solstice landmark in the U.S. is The Medicine Wheel, located in Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains. Built several hundred years ago by an unknown Plains tribe, the arrangement of stones is perfectly in line with the solstice's sunrise and sunset each year.
Feeling Groovy8 of 13
Sunrise Celebration is an ethical living and organic arts and music festival powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Held on an organic farm in England, the festival has a site-wide organic food and drink policy and promotes a positive feeling of heartfelt gratitude. It's a celebration of summertime, community and creativity, featuring 13 music stages, performances, healing arts, crafts, talks and workshops.
Love Is in the Air9 of 13
The present-day belief that June weddings are lucky can be traced back to the ancient Druids' celebration of "the wedding of Heaven and Earth" on the summer solstice. Traditionally the best time of year to harvest honey from the beehives, midsummer moon was referred to by pagans as the "honey moon," referencing the honey wine used in wedding ceremonies held on the summer solstice.
Back to Nature10 of 13
The summer solstice is a magical time in Latvia when traditional folk customs are brought to life on Jani, the country's most beloved holiday. Also known as Grass Day, Jani is celebrated in the countryside, and flower and oak leaf wreaths are hung everywhere. As tradition goes, you must stay awake all night on the eve of Jani, and folks gather around huge bonfires to sing the customary Ligo ("sway") songs and eat homemade caraway cheese.
Strike a Pose11 of 13
New York welcomes summer with a collective ohm in the middle of Times Square. On June 21, thousands of participants will roll out their yoga mats at The Crossroads of the World to celebrate the longest day of the year with an all-day yoga fest. Free classes will be held from 7:25AM to 9:00PM, along with musical performances, lectures, giveaways and more.
Fantasy Land12 of 13
Since 1974, Santa Barbara, Calif., puts on an extravagant summer solstice parade, complete with over-the-top floats, flamboyant costumes, brilliant dance ensembles, creative street performers and eclectic music. But unlike other parades, this one is about getting back to basics; even the floats are man-powered. This year's theme, "Creatures," promises not to disappoint.
Hello, Summer!13 of 13
No need for a pilgrimage to stage your own summer solstice celebration. Pull from any of the above traditions or start your own: Pick wildflowers, tend to your garden, watch the sunrise, have a picnic, light a sacred fir, and gather with friends and family on the longest day of the year.
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