It’s been summer for a few weeks now, however, the day that is unofficially recognized in the Northern Hemisphere as the beginning of the season is this Thursday on June 21st. The summer solstice is an astronomical event that occurs when the North Pole is leaning towards the sun during Earth’s orbit and is directly above the constellation of the Tropic of Cancer. Because of this the day is the the longest day of the year likewise it is the “start” of winter in the Southern Hemisphere where the day is the shortest.
Contrary to belief the solstice is not the hottest day of the year even though the sun is shining for about 17 hours that day. The oceans and land masses take a while to heat up so often the hottest day is months after the June which is known as a lag of the seasons. Another common misconception is that the earliest sunrise and latest sunsets occur during the solstice, but in fact the sun rises much earlier a few days preceding the change of the seasons and sets the latest a few days after.
People have always been in tune with the changing of seasons as well as the sunrise and sunset, even in ancient times they recognized the position of the sun. In England, Stonehenge was built to mark the sun’s progress each year; in Egypt two pyramids and the Sphinx were constructed where if you were to stand at the Sphinx and look towards those pyramids the sun would fall directly between them.
Traditionally the summer solstice took place during farmer’s off season between planting and harvesting which is one of the reasons many couples get married in June (others were discussed in our last blog). All across the Northern Hemisphere there are festivals, overnight picnics, dancing, and other celebrations to mark the day. For some it’s a real ethereal experience to see the first sunrise of summer and they prefer to meditate instead of partying that night.
If you really stop to think about it this planet is amazing. Against all odds we have a sun and a rotation that causes these phenomenons to change our seasons and to bring us joy. The stars that align to form the Crab of Cancer, the sun that rises early in the morning, and the peace people feel sitting in the grass late at night. It’s like none of this was a coincidence at all.