The origin of…Summer solstice

“At the Summer Solstice, all is green and growing, potential coming into being, the miracle of manifestation painted large on the canvas of awareness. At the Winter Solstice, the wind is cold, trees are bare and all lies in stillness beneath blankets of snow.” Gary Zukav


The summer solstice happens in June (between the 20th and 22nd) in the northern hemisphere and in December (also between the 20th and the 22nd) in the southern hemisphere. It occurs when the sun, as seen from the earth, has reached its northernmost or southernmost position. On earth these positions are known as the Tropic of Cancer (currently at 23° 26´ 16” north of the Equator) in the northern hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn (currently at 23° 26´ 16” south of the Equator) in the southern hemisphere.
In traditional East Asian calendars, the year is divided into 24 solar phases. In Chinese Xiàzhì is the 10th solar phase and coincides with the summer solstice when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 90°.
Stonehenge (built between 3000 and 2000 BC) in the UK is an example of a prehistoric monument where the solstice played a role in the design. At summer solstice, when standing inside the stone circle and looking through the entrance, one can see the sun rise above the Heelstone.
The Maya in Central America built the Temple of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza. Although it is more known for the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, when the pyramid casts a series of triangular shadows against the north side, making it seem like a serpent is squirming down the stairs, on the day of the 21st of June the temple indicates the exact moment of the summer solstice when the sun hits the north and east sides and casts a shadow over the south and west sides. These effects of light and shadow make it appear as if the temple is split in half.

The day of the summer solstice is the longest day of the year and after this day the days will get shorter, until the winter solstice, after which the days will be getting longer. It is known as the beginning of summer and throughout history people have celebrated this day in various ways. In some countries the feast day of St. John, who was allegedly born on June the 24th, and the midsummer celebrations merged into one celebration. All celebrations involve the burning of bonfires to give the sun more power. The fire also has a purifying character and it is said to cleanse the soul.

For example, in Finland, where summer solstice before 1316 was known as Ukon juhla (Ukko´s celebration) and after that as juhannus after John the Baptist. Bonfires are burned by the seaside and at lakes and in old myths it is believed that the midsummer night was a good night for young maidens to find their future husband. Because Finland is so close to the Arctic Circle the nights near the summer solstice are short or don´t even exist.
In Spain midsummer parties are held on the eve of San Juan (the evening of the 23rd of June): Bonfires are set alight and people party at beaches where also fireworks are lit. In Cataluña, coca de Sant Joan (a sweet kind of bread with aniseed and pine nuts) is served and in Alicante huge statues made of cardboard and wood are placed in the streets and burned at midnight. People dance and sing while the fires go on and firemen shower them with water, an event known as the banyá.

Summer solstice:
1. the point in the sky occupied by the sun on or about June 22d when summer begins in the northern hemisphere : the June solstice
2. the time at which the sun reaches the June solstice for dwellers in the northern hemisphere or the December solstice for those in the southern hemisphere (source: Merriam Webster).

The English word solstice, Spanish solsticio and Italian solstizio comes from Old French solstice, from Latin solstitium, point at which the sun seems to stand still. From sol, sun, + past participle stem of sister, to come to a stop, make stand still.
Dutch zomerzonnewende comprises of the words zomer, summer, zonne, sun, and wende, turn. Zomer comes from Middle Dutch somer, from Old High German sumar, from Proto-Germanic *sumur-, from the Proto Indo European root *sem-, summer. Zon comes from Middle Dutch sonne, from Proto-Germanic *sunnon, from Proto Indo European *s(u)wen-, an alternative form of the root *saewel-, to shine/sun. Wende comes from the verb wenden, to turn, from Old High German wenten, from Proto-Germanic *wanjan, from Proto Indo European *wendh-, to turn/wind/weave.

Summer solstice in other languages:
Dutch: zomerzonnewende
Spanish: el solsticio de verano
Italian: il solstizio d´estate


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