If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it may feel like the day is just not ending - And you are not far off. That's because June 21st, which also marks the first day of summer, is officially the longest day of the year!
Known as the summer solstice, it is the result of the Earth's axis being most inclined toward the sun. The opposite, known as winter solstice occurs in mid-December when the axis is most inclined away from the sun.
Countries in the Southern Hemisphere experience a similar phenomenon, except in their case, the days are reversed and today is the first day of winter, while December 22nd, marks the first day of summer.
The amount (or lack of) sun received during this day, depends on the location of your city or town. Washington D.C. on the east coast of United States will receive almost 15 hours, while the islands of Hawaii on the southwest corner of the country, will have to settle for just a tad over 13. If you need more than that, head over to the north to Alaska, which will receive 21 hours 30 minutes, or even better to the north of the Arctic Circle where the sun will not set at all. On the flip side, the Antarctica or South Pole will not see any sunlight today.
While we now know the cause of this phenomenon, in ancient cultures it was regarded a spiritual occasion and celebrated with great abandon. One of the oldest and biggest celebrations takes place at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England where thousands of people gather each year, to pay homage to the rising sun. The people of Sweden celebrate the day with a weeklong festival, while the Polish leap over bonfires to ward off evil spirits.
Some modern day celebrations have also evolved over the years. Japan celebrates with Candle Nights a two-week event to help the environment. Started in 2003, it encourages people all over the world, to turn off lights (and all electrical devices) from 8.00pm to 10: pm every single day.
New York celebrates this first day of summer in great style too. Hundreds of people gather at the world famous Times Square, for a full day of 'mind over madness' yoga. The event is free, nd all that is required is a yoga mat and desire to maintain awkward positions in the middle of the bustling city!
Also, it is thanks to the ancient priest or druids who believed that this day marked the marriage of the Earth and Heavens, that June weddings are considered so auspicious.
Does your town or city do anything special for summer solstice? If so, be sure to let us know, by adding your comment below.
Resources: wikipedia.org, huffingtonpost.com, dailygazette.com