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Jan Harris
Assistant Editor
4:00 PM 20th June 2021
lifestyle

Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Image by Mircea Ploscar from Pixabay
Image by Mircea Ploscar from Pixabay
The summer solstice is also the longest day and in 2021 it will be celebrated on Monday 21 June, that is if you live north of the equator. It can be seen anywhere in Britain and is celebrated every year in lots of different ways.

What is it?

'Solstice' comes from the Latin, 'solstitium', sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) because the path of the sun seems to come to a halt before reversing direction.

It is the time when the earth in the northern hemisphere is nearest towards the sun and so gets the most daylight of the year.

Solstices are opposite on either side of the equator, so the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere is the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere and vice versa.

Is the solstice the first day of summer?

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
This is debatable. It depends on whether you're speaking meteorolgically or astronomically. Meteorologists divide the year into four seasons allowing them to organise climate data better. Summer therefore starts 1st June and ends 31st August.

Astronomically the first day of summer is when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky which is on the summer solstice (20-22 June).

The astronomical start date is based on the position of the sun in relation to the earth. In 2021 the summer solstice falls on Monday 21 June, which is also the longest day of the year.

The summer solstice falls between planting and harvesting crops and so farmers and landworkers would have time to relax which meant that June became popular for weddings.

Six months later is the winter solstice also known as the shortest day of the year. The summer solstice can be any date between 20 and 22 June. The astronomical summer lasts until the autumnal equinox which in 2021 is on Wednesday 22 September.

Image by Lorri Lang from Pixabay
Image by Lorri Lang from Pixabay
Spring Equinox:
20/23 March
Summer Solstice:
20/22 June
Autumn Equinox:
21/24 September
Winter Solstice:
20/23 December


Is Midsummer's Day the longest day?

Midsummer's day falls on the 24 June, 3 days after the longest day (summer solstice) in the northern hemisphere which is between 20-22 June.

Who celebrates?

Image by Nanou22 from Pixabay
Image by Nanou22 from Pixabay
Hundreds, if not thousands of people often flock to the ancient site of Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice, as Stonehenge has been a prehistoric site of worship and celebration for thousands of years.

At the summer solstice the sun rises directly above the Heel Stone which stands outside the circle of stones to the north-east.

It is said that the giant stones of Stonehenge were so positioned to align with the sunrise on the two annual solstices.

English Heritage have again cancelled the anuual event at Stonehenge because of the pandemic restrictions being postponed until 19 July, so you can witness the solstice remotely on the English Heritage website. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/things-to-do/solstice/

Some facts about the June solstice

The summer solstice is the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere.
The summer solstice has the longest day of daylight.
There are nearly 17 hours of daylight on the longest day in the northern hemisphere.
'Solstice' comes from the Latin, 'solstitium', sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still)
Solstices happen twice a year - in June and December.
The Earth is actually farthest from the Sun during this time of the year.
The solstice is celebrated around the world.
The earliest sunrise of the year is normally before the summer solstice.
The Arctic Circle has 24 hours of daylight around the June solstice which is often called the Midnight Sun.
The sun is more powerful at the summer solstice so associated with fertility and new beginnings.