9 Summer Solstice Facts You Never Knew
The summer solstice is a special day that many of us wait for each year. As the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice brings sunshine and warmth well through the evening. We all know the solstice, on June 21st, marks the first day of summer, but there are so many summer solstice facts you had no idea existed:
“Summer solstice” has a special meaning.
The word “solstice” derives from the Latin words sol — which means sun — and sistere — to stand still. Around noon on the day of the summer solstice, the sun does not seem to move at all when compared to other days during the year. The rest of the year, the sun’s path rises and falls throughout any given day. This happens because the Earth tilts on its axis — approximately 23.5 degrees.
The sun sits directly over the Tropic of Cancer.
During the summer solstice, the sun stands over the Tropic of Cancer. In fact, it’s how the Tropic of Cancer got its name. According to Discover Magazine, the name was given thousands of years ago after the sun appeared in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.
It’s not called “summer solstice” around the world.
In many parts of Northern Europe, the solstice is referred to as Midsummer, while many Christian churches still recognize the day as St. John’s Day — referring to John the Baptist’s birth. Some Wiccans and other Neopagan groups actually call the summer solstice Litha.
The date varies in different parts of the world.
In North America, our summer solstice is on June 21. However, other countries and regions celebrate this special day any time between June 19 and June 24.
It’s not all fun and games.
During Midsummer, or the summer solstice, many people in Europe sport traditional flower crowns. While these crowns may look pretty and whimsical, they are actually worn for a dark reason. According to pagan folklore, it was once believed that evil spirits appeared during the summer solstice. A crown made of flowers and herbs was thought to help protect against these spirits. Traditionally, these flower crowns were made with “chase devil”, or what is known today as St. John’s Wart.
Some areas host midnight sports.
Alaska celebrates the summer solstice with games of midnight baseball. Started in 1906, the game begins at 10:30 p.m. and lasts through morning.
A major universal collision probably started the summer solstice.
Most scientists believe that the summer solstice began when our planet collided with massive objects billions of years ago — likely when Earth was still being formed.
Stonehenge may have been built for the summer solstice.
Nobody really knows why Stonehenge was built more than 5,000 years ago, but one of the most popular theories is that it was used to mark both equinoxes and solstices. This theory is further supported by the fact that the sun rises directly over the structure’s Heel Stone and hits the Altar Stone right in the center during the solstice.