Summer Solstice 2012: Your Burning Questions Answered
As you may or may not be aware, today is the summer solstice (and if you believe the hype, possibly the last summer solstice ever). Now, some of you may be thinking, what is this ‘summer solstice’ you speak of? Can I eat it? Will it hurt me?
The answers to your questions, in reverse chronological order, are: depends on how you choose to celebrate, maybe, and…
What is this sorcery?!
Believe it or not, the summer solstice isn’t sorcery at all. It’s an astronomical event that occurs when the axial tilt of earth’s semi-axis is most inclined toward our sun, resulting in the ‘longest’ day of the year. Or, simply, when the earth leans in to high-five the sun.
Fun fact: the term ‘summer solstice’ is actually too vague to be correct. What we call the summer solstice up here in the Northern Hemisphere is actually the winter solstice for our friends down South. Please remember to pour one out for Australia today as they zip up their parkas in preparation for winter. Oh, wait.
Why should I care?
Well, for one thing, the Northern Solstice marks the first day of summer in the Northern hemisphere. Everyone loves summer! Except Chad, but he doesn’t love anything.
The day of the Northern Solstice is also the longest day of the year. It contains a fraction of a second more daylight than the days before and after it! Sure, it’s not much, but it’s still a reason to have a party.
How can I celebrate the Northern Solstice?
By far, the most popular way to celebrate the Northern Solstice is to light stuff on fire. People from many different cultures traditionally light giant bonfires during their Midsummer celebrations. Oftentimes they then imbibe alcohol and jump over the bonfires. It’s a lot like the 4th of July, except getting drunk and jumping over a fire is actually part of the celebration!
Here are a few of the most awesome descriptions of Midsummer celebrations from around the world (from Wikipedia):
Latvia: In the western town of Kuldīga, revellers mark the holiday by running naked through the town at three in the morning. The event has taken place for the past seven years. Runners are rewarded with beer, and police are on hand in case any “puritans” attempt to interfere with the naked run.
Finland: Rituals include bonfires, cookouts, a sauna and spending time together. Heavy drinking is also associated with the Finnish midsummer.
Portugal: In Porto and Braga St John’s [Midsummer] is a festival that is lived to the full in the streets, where anything is permitted. People carry a whole plant of flowering garlic with them (or a little plastic hammer), which they use to bang their neighbors over the head for good luck.
Unfortunately, running naked through your city is more likely to get you arrested than a mug of beer, and hitting your neighbours over the head with a plastic hammer will net you more punches to the face than good luck. So, you should probably make your solstice celebration look more like the Finns’. Just enjoy the warm weather, the good times, and the camaraderie. Nothing beats an outdoor celebration.
In fact, this is the perfect excuse reason to grill up an assortment of meats, invite your friends and family over, and crack open some cold ones. In celebration of like, nature and stuff!