Surprisingly, summer doesn’t just start when the weather becomes unbearably hot. From a technical standpoint, the season doesn’t begin until the Solstice, a celestial event which has been used to dictate the changing of time since humans started counting days. But since its significance has plummeted in recent centuries, many people seem unaware of the history and purpose of the annual phenomenon. That’s where we come in. We’ve compiled a list of the most common questions internet users have about the Summer Solstice and even went out of our way to provide the answers! Aren’t we nice?
What Is Summer Solstice
Scientifically speaking, it’s the day of the year where one of a planet’s poles is closest to its primary star. Since Earth rotates on a tilted axis, it actually has two Summer Solstices, one for the northern hemisphere and one for the southern. These two dates are identifiable by being the longest solar day in their respective regions. This is not to say that either day is longer than 24 hours, but rather that the sun is out longer than any other day of the year. That might not sound too impressive, but consider that in some parts of the world, this can mean that they get up to 22 hours of sunlight on the Solstice. Scientists have even managed to pinpoint to the exact minute in which the Earth’s pole is closest to the sun. This is considered the start of the calendar summer
After the Solstice, the days will start getting progressively shorter until the day and night are equal lengths on the Fall Equinox when both poles are equidistant from the sun. This will, in turn, lead to the Winter Solstice, the shortest solar day of the year where a pole is at its furthest point from the sun. Following the Winter Solstice, the days will gradually become longer and the annual cycle will repeat itself.
Summer Solstice 2018 Date
In 2018, the Summer Solstice also called the June Solstice or Midsummer, will take place in the northern hemisphere on Thursday, June 21st at around 6:07 AM EST or 10:07 UTC. If you forget, just look out your window around 10 that night and ask yourself why the sun is still up.
Summer Solstice Rituals & Meaning?
In the modern age, there isn’t much non-scientific purpose for the Solstice. Most people gauge the start of summer by whenever they feel it to be too warm for it to be spring anymore. Only astronomers and various sub-sects of sociologists use the Solstice as a measuring tool for different cosmic events or population studies.
In the past, however, the Solstice was considered a major religious holiday for most pagan faiths and pre-Abrahamic religions. The longest day of the year was consequential for primitive farming calendars so the day itself, or a close approximation to it provided by a local priest or soothsayer, was a time for revelry and celebration. Depending on the culture, the Summer Solstice holiday, called Litha by most Euro-centric interpretations, was in reverence to a new crop cycle, prime fertility dates or just the middle of the year. Though most major religions don’t have a direct Solstice ritual, it is still celebrated by some wiccans and other fringe faiths. Celebratory rituals usually involve bonfires, feasts and sun worship. But for the most part, it’s just fodder for astrologists these days.
Summer Solstice Activities?
Ostensibly, the Solstice is more or less just another day but longer. There are, however, a number of specific Solstice-related events you could take advantage of on the date in question. Though it no longer has a major religious significance, several music and art festivals still crop up on the Solstice every year to take advantage of the longest hours of daylight available. Among the more famous annual events is a day-long public yoga session in Times Square, a veritable bacchanal that takes over Stonehenge, a midsummer folk celebration in Stockholm, the Astrofest star-gazing convention in Croatia and, of course, the Secret Solstice Midnight Sun Music Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Summer Solstice Length?
This is entirely dependent on where you live but the general rule of thumb is that the farther north you are, the longer your Solstice is going to be. Because of how the Earth is angled towards the sun during the Solstice, the closest areas to the pole is in direct sunlight for almost an entire daily rotation. A solar day in these areas can last up to 22 hours, leading to problems like sleep deprivation and general discombobulation. But that’s why we have coffee, right? The same holds true in reverse for the southern hemisphere. When their Summer Solstice comes around in December, the southernmost areas will experience the longest day.