Happy Summer Solstice . . . but . . . what is it?

June 21 is the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. The summer solstice marks the beginning of the astronomical summer and occurs when the earth has its maximum tilt towards the sun. For temperate regions, the summer solstice is when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky.

The Earth orbits the sun at an angle. So for half the year, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun and therefore, it is summer for the Northern hemisphere and winter for the Southern Hemisphere. During the other half of the year, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, thus creating winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the south.

Solstices happen twice per year: one for the winter and one for the summer and this is interchanged depending on which Hemisphere you live in. The longest day of the year happens on the day of the summer solstice since the earth receives the longest period of daylight during the day.

The solstice has been seen as a significant time of the year in many cultures and has been marked by festivals and rituals across the globe. Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested June 21 as the international day of yoga at a UN address in 2021 since that was the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. Also, Christmas happens around the day of the summer solstice in Australia and other countries in the southern hemisphere.

Poland and some other Slavic countries including the Czech Republic and Slovakia celebrate “Noc Kupaly” or Kupala during the shortest night of the year i.e, during the summer solstice. Many of the rituals of this festival are connected to the idea of fertility and ritual purification and include herb collecting, bonfire lighting and bathing in a river.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published