Happy Summer Solstice everyone! Even though the weather might not seem to have gotten the memo, (we’ve had plenty of lightning storms here in the Midlands over the last week), we are now entering summer! And I’m here to tell you a little bit about the summer solstice, or as its more commonly known, the longest day of the year.
Now, I’ve always held the belief that the longest day falls on June 21st of each year, and that this year’s discrepancy was due to it being a leap year, however, it turns out, that is incorrect! Currently, the longest day fluctuates between the 20th, 21st, and 22nd of June each year.
Traditionally, summer solstice celebrations are held at Stonehenge each year; however, with the current pandemic the historic site has been sensibly closed to the public. Instead, the solstice was live broadcast on English Heritage social media channels. I watched through their Twitter account.
So what exactly is the summer solstice?
The summer solstice, also referred to as midsummer, is the point in the year in which the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere is tilted the most towards the sun, resulting in the day having the longest sunlight hours. As it stands, the sun is set to go down at approximately 21:33 in my area.
Why is the summer solstice celebrated?
There’s no easy answer to this; celebrations for midsummer date back thousands of years, pre-dating the knowledge that we now know is the reason for the longest day. It was the mystery behind the sunlight phenomena that contributed to the importance of the day.
In Christian tradition, the summer solstice is thought to be the birth date of St John the Baptist, who was born half a year earlier than Jesus. DW has a brief history of the festivities on their website, which can be viewed here.
Many Nordic countries celebrate by way of bonfires and festivities; it is thought the light of the bonfire is a reference to the ‘white nights’, a direct result of the solstice – where, for sometimes months at a time, darkness is scarce. This phenomena occurs in several regions – you can read the Wikipedia article on it here.
What is the importance of Stonehenge?
Stonehenge is a pre-historic monument, believed to be more than 5,000 years old. It’s original intention remains largely unknown; remains found at the site suggest it was once a cremation burial site, as well as a cemetery. But with no written records of the monument, this is entirely up for debate. There are many myths surrounding the monument, including one of the wizard Merlin building the monument with the help of giants. Another is that Druids were responsible for the site.
One possible explanation for the monument is to do with the summer and winter solstice; one section, named The Heel Stone, directly lines up with the sunset for the winter solstice and then the sunrise for the summer solstice.
New Age Beliefs, gaining traction in the 70s, showed a revival in the spiritual and religious aspect of the stones, particularly for neo-pagan and neo-druid beliefs. Believers in these circles gathered at Stonehenge every year to celebrate the monument.
If you’re interested in mysteries and phenomena such as Stonehenge, you should research ‘Earth Mysteries’, and see the many, many, natural and man-made ideas and their cultural or religious significance, and why.
Relation to Midsummer
Midsummer’s Day falls after the summer solstice, and it is the eve of this day that is of the most importance. It is an evening associated with witches, fairies, and the thinning of the veil between the two worlds. The myths surrounding the monument were only strengthened by this view of Midsummer, an eve that was humorously depicted in Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
How have you celebrated the summer solstice? I have by sitting in my bed with a nice cold beer whilst Skyping with my boyfriend.
The header image is sourced from the English Heritage website. You can read more about the History of Stonehenge, and much more, on their website: