June 20 is the 2012 summer solstice.
A forecast of temperatures in the low 70’s and the thin, wispy clouds streaking across today’s big, blue sky are classic markers of the first day of summer in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t expect this blissful weather to last too long. Cooler temperatures and rain are in the forecast for the latter part of this week.
But while the warmth and sunshine are here, Patch would like to ask you what reminds you of summer: Are there certain foods or drinks that evoke the long days, short nights and radiating suntans? Maybe it’s a smell, sound, or song that puts you in the summer frame of mind. Tell us in the comments section.
For this Patch editor, the Hallmark taste treats of summer include fresh-picked berries and ice cold beer. As for the sounds, I’ve got Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding on my mind. I am from the San Francisco Bay area, after all!
And now back to the summer solstice. What is it exactly?
It’s the longest day of daylight for those of us living in the northern hemisphere. The earth's axial tilt is inclined toward the sun more than any other day of the year. Technically speaking, the tilt on this day peaks at 23° 26'. Because of this, there is a maximum of sunlight seconds on the day of the summer solstice.
Sundown for Renton will be at 9:10 p.m., giving us 16 hours of daylight.
Fun Facts on Summer Solstice
Set Your Clocks
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the start of summer in the northern hemisphere is 1:16 p.m. today. According to TimeandDate.com, the date of the "June solstice" varies from June 20 to June 22 depending on the year, in the Gregorian calendar (there will not be another June 22 solstice until 2203). Celebrate by taking your lunch outside today to welcome the season–we recommend a nice picnic at .
The Farmer’s Almanac states that "the word solstice comes from the Latin words for "sun" and "to stop," due to the fact that the sun appears to stop in the sky.” With the sun high overhead today, this will be the longest day of the year. How do you spend your longer days? More time outside or more hours working? We think we know the answer to this one…
Though there’s no official word on the purpose of Stonehenge, this circle monument made from stone might have been specifically constructed for today's celestial occurrence. Perhaps this is the reason thousands of people head to Stonehenge, located just outside Wiltshire, England, every year to celebrate the summer solstice.
According to History.com, the monument is built on the solstice alignment and for more than a century, people gathered to celebrate the occasion. In 1985, according to the website, the celebrations were cancelled and then re-instated again in 2000. An average of 30,000 people, mostly neo-pagan groups, flock to Stonehenge for the celebration. See photos of last year’s celebration on June 21, 2010, on the Huffington Post or on the Washington Post websites. You can also visit the monument’s official website here.
Origins and Celebrations
It’s hard to find a lot of information about the origins of the Summer Solstice or “equinox.” According to Timeanddate.com, “In ancient times, the date of the June solstice was an important source to help people manage their calendars and organize when to plant and harvest crops.” The website adds that this is the traditional time of the year for weddings… still is today!
“In ancient China, the summer solstice,” they report, “was observed by a ceremony to celebrate the earth, femininity, and the “yin” forces. It complemented the winter solstice that celebrated the heavens, masculinity and “yang” forces.” Other cultures have different celebrations or exact meanings of the celebration but many refer to femininity and fertility.
Most commonly associated with Pagan traditions, the website states that the summer solstice or “Midsummer,” was marked by in ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes with bonfires. “After Christianity spread in Europe and other parts of the world, many pagan customs were incorporated into the Christian religion. In many parts of Scandinavia, the Midsummer celebration continued but was observed around the time of St John’s Day, on June 24, to honor St John the Baptist instead of the pagan gods.”
In North America, the website states that Native American tribes held rituals to honor the sun and that the Sioux were most well known for theirs.
In addition to dancing, the Suiox would paint their bodies in the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light), and black (night).
So how are you celebrating the extra sunshine on summer solstice?
—Annie Archer and Nicole Ball contributed to this story.