Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice

"It's summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime."

With today being the Summer Solstice, officially, it's summer. Unless you live in the North Pole or South Pole, today is the longest day of the year. For the next six months days will be getting shorter again, so enjoy this one while you've got it.

A few miscellaneous facts about Summer Solstice.

1. If you are in the habit of saying "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" all the time, you can say this word more times today than any day of the year.

2. The reason we have seasons is because the earth rotates on an axis that is tilted. The Summer Solstice occurs on the exact day that the earth is most inclined toward the sun, thus providing Argentinians and South Africans with their shortest day of the year.

3. The word solstice is Latin, derived from the words “sun” and “to stand still.” The latter part of the word comes from the observation that as the days lengthen it seems to stand still up in the sky. Which means that a "winter solstice" doesn't make sense.

4. Today is not the longest day in history. There is a story in the Old Testament, in the tenth chapter of Joshua, in which God temporarily caused the sun to stop heading toward the horizon till Joshua and the armies of Israel completed their rout of the enemies. The long day of Joshua has fostered speculation as to whether some kind of astronomical event temporarily halted or slowed the rotation of the earth. “So the sun and moon stood still until the Israelites had defeated their enemies. This event is recorded in The Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not set as on a normal day. The Lord fought for Israel that day. Never before or since, has there been a day like that one.” (Joshua 10:13-14)

5. Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer (see Shakespeare), St. John's Day, or the Wiccan Litha. The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun's energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.*

6. Druids celebrate Summer Solstice as "the wedding of Heaven & Earth."

7. At Stonehenge and elsewhere thousands gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice, staying up all night to welcome the dawn. Last year, over 36,000 arrived at the event. Since the longest day is also the shortest night, maybe this is not as demanding of an experience as it first seems.

8. Pagans called the Midsummer moon the "Honey Moon" for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice.

9. Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires, when couples would leap through the flames, believing their crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump.
10. Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear. To thwart them, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of them was a plant called 'chase-devil', which is known today as St. John's Wort and still used by modern herbalists as a mood stabilizer.

Today it is a Monday and after a long day at the office, it is unlikely I will want to spend the night partying till dawn. I do hope that you will enjoy the day... It's summertime!

*Source for items 5-10, Wikipedia.

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