Originally Published: June 19, 2017 6 a.m.
In case you are wondering if summer is here yet (as we all swelter in this heat wave), fear not, because tomorrow evening marks the summer solstice. All over the world, the June Solstice is the exact instant of time when the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer. It is the longest day of the year (usually not the hottest — except for the inferno in Arizona). Strangely, the Arctic Circle will have 24 hours of continuous daylight. On the flip side, Antarctica will experience 24 hours of night. What a world!
The summer solstice is iconic ... a day with time-honored history rife with pagan celebrations and all things Stonehenge. Well, this summer solstice did get a number of parties going full steam, but at least no one was pushed off pyramids like the Mayans did. Historians like to point to Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in Wilshire, England, as evidence that ancient humans used the June solstice as a way to organize their calendars. Some believe that the unique configuration of stones was erected around 2500 BC in order to establish the date of the summer solstice, which would be the starting point of the summer.
In China, the summer solstice was celebrated as a way to honor the Earth, femininity and the “yin” forces. According to Chinese tradition, the shortest shadow is found on the day of the summer solstice. In North America, Native American tribes held ritual dances to honor the sun. Today in northern European and Scandinavian countries, they hold Midnight Sun festivals and feasts. It seems that people around the world like to celebrate the “longest day of summer.”
In Scandinavia, celebrations are punctuated by eating strawberries, which represent all things summer. The Native Americans would hold ritual dances to honor the sun. They would paint their bodies with the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light) and black (night). In Sweden and Finland, throngs of people dance around Maypoles. Throughout Europe, bonfires are lit, music festivals occur and all-night parties are common.
There are people in Prescott having summer solstice parties or enjoying an outing in the Prescott Square. It might be a little too warm for me to feel festive. Of course, there are quite a few folks (nuts) in Phoenix planning “Longest Day” celebrations, which sometimes involve running through sprinklers, jumping in fountains and pools (well it is supposes to be 118 degrees) and even riding the Light Rail naked. Yes, I said naked. Which, might be illegal (and stupid), plus downright dangerous. Yikes, do not sit on a hot metal seat without your knickers on! Can heat make you go bonkers?
The longest day of the year is fast approaching. Sort of sad because every day gets shorter and pretty soon we will have to do our Christmas shopping. Time flies. Need a reason to party? The summer solstice is coming. This week, celebrate the wonders of long days with a big bowl of strawberries. (Clothing required).
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.