The Summer Solstice

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’ve reached the longest day of the year.  Today is officially Summer Solstice or the First Day Of Summer. 

It seems like we’ve had plenty of summery days already this year, but it was actually still Spring or even late Winter.   Now is when we have some serious heatwaves.  Us folks in the Central Great Plains are bracing for high temperatures accompanied by high humidity and dewpoints.

This will usher in the maladies of sleep difficulty, insect bites, drenching sweat, sunburn, sunstroke and heat exhaustion.  All of these conditions are more serious than they seem at first blush.

Some of my compatriots love the muggy, hot days of Summer.  As for myself, I celebrate the wonderful invention of Willis Carrier, he should be proclaimed a saint even though I don’t know if he was a religious man or not.  Long live refrigerated air!  May my thermostat remain set in the comfort zone.

I could grumble about the season.  However, today is actually celebrated by traditional cultures.  Unlike Winter Solstice with its potpouri of holidays, Summer Solstice is largely ignored in the USA.  That’s a shame, because now is when we need some well deserved breaktime before we collapse in the heat.

It seems counterintuitive, but many ancient cultures celebrated Solstice or Midsummer with bonfires.  Some Germanic people practiced the tradition of lovers leaping through the flames. Some people believed that the bonfires would enhance the energy and fertility of the sun for their crops. 

The Chinese celebrated the Yin or feminine principle to compliment the yang or male energy of Winter Solstice.

Ancient Rome, as usual, had many summery holidays.  One of the best known was the Festival of Vestalia.  The early June holiday honored Vesta, the Goddess of the hearth.

In pagan Sweden and much of Scandinavia, Midsummer was the feast day.  A large midsummer tree was erected in the middle of town and decorated with colorful ribbons and trinkets.  If there was a local river, the females customarily bathed in it.  This was thought to bring rain for the crops.

Some Christians celebrate the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist on the 24th.  This is similar to the offset celebration of the Christian Winter Solstice in December on the 25th.

Most famously, Summer Solstice was celebrated by the Ancient Celtic peoples.  In fact, many neo pagans and New Agers still commemorate the position of the sun, today.  The Celts celebrated the “Light of the Shore”, as the sun appeared halfway between the two Equinoxes, Spring and Summer.  That means the midsummer feasts celebrate the zenith of sunlight.  The crowning of the Oak King who rules the waxing year as he is overcome by the darker aspect known as the Holly King, the lord of the waning year as the daytimes become shorter.

Unlike my Swedish and Germanic ancestors, I won’t decorate a tree or jump through a bonfire today.  I do plan to commemorate the Solstice by enjoying a picnic lunch with a special friend.  We’ll annoint the festivities with pitchers full of ice tea.


The Blue Jay of Happiness wishes our readers, South of the Equator, a Happy First Day Of Winter.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, History, Hometown, Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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