It is the summer solstice on 20 June and this marks the longest day in the northern hemisphere. The summer solstice happens between 20-22 June, although it is rare to be on 22 June.
A solstice occurs twice a year and marks the time when the sun is furthest away from the Equator. During the summer solstice the sun is at its most northern point, directly over the Tropic of Cancer, and the North Pole tilts directly towards the sun. This will happen at 10:34pm on Monday 20 June this year.
The summer solstice also marks the first day of summer in the astronomical calendar so holds special significance for many as it denotes a shift in seasons. The Earth tilts on its rotational axis at 23.4o and this tilt is what creates the seasons. The astronomical calendar marks the seasons by the earth’s tilt in relation to its orbit around the sun. In the northern hemisphere the Earth tilts towards the sun in summer and away from the sun in winter.
In the UK, the longest day depends precisely on your location but it is approximately 16-17 hours long. In more northern parts of the world, within the Arctic Circle, the sun is visible all night and there are 24 hours of daylight around the time of the summer solstice. This is known as the midnight sun.
When it is the summer solstice on the northern hemisphere it is the winter solstice and the shortest day in the southern hemisphere.
How is the summer solstice celebrated?
In ancient times, the summer solstice was a time for planting crops and was also a popular time of year for weddings. It was a time to celebrate the fertility of the earth. In ancient China, it was a time to celebrate the Earth, femininity and the ‘yin’ forces.
Pagan rituals are at the heart of summer solstice celebrations. Many people gather to watch the sun rise, often at ancient religious sites such as Avebury in Wiltshire. One of the most popular and famous places for watching the sunrise is Stonehenge and modern day druids and Pagans gather at this sacred site each year.
Stonehenge has been a place of worship and celebration during the summer solstice for thousands of years. For one of only a few times a year, visitors to Stonehenge are allowed actually touch the stones. Many people talk of summer solstice at Stonehenge as being a very spiritual and emotional experience with a real sense of positive energy.
In northern European countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, people hold midsummer festivals and celebrations. There are feasts, singing, dancing and bonfires. In Sweden people celebrate by dancing round maypoles.
To celebrate the summer solstice with your children, why not have a look at our range of early years’ free resources? We have resources based on the seasons and the months of the year which are all free to download and can be used as creatively as you wish in your classroom.
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