This year’s solstice straddles two calendar days, arriving at 11:32 p.m. Eastern time on June 20. In North America, Sunday will bring the most daylight, while in Europe and Asia, Monday will technically be the longest day of the year, though just by a few seconds.
The name summer solstice is derived from Latin and comes from the Romans’ observation that the sun’s position in the sky at noon didn’t change much for the entire day.
Though daylight peaks on the solstice, our hottest summer days, on average, don’t arrive until mid-July. This delay, or seasonal lag, happens because the amount of solar energy arriving at the ground continues to outpace the amount leaving the Northern Hemisphere for several weeks after the solstice. It’s largely driven by the oceans, which take much longer than land to warm up and cool down, and release heat slowly over time.
Before Christianity told ahold of Europe, many tribes including pagans in Ireland celebrated the midsummer with bonfires.
They believed that the fires would give the sun’s energy a boost which would guarantee the crop-reliant people a good harvest.
This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires that would add to the sun’s energy, Christians placed the feast of St John the Baptist towards the end of June and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light.
Like other religious groups, Pagans are in awe of the incredible strength of the sun and the divine powers that create life. For Pagans this spoke in the Wheel of the Year is a significant point. The Goddess took over the earth from the horned God at the beginning of spring and she is now at the height of her power and fertility. For some Pagans the Summer Solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and see their union as the force that creates the harvest’s fruits.
This is a time to celebrate growth and life but for Pagans, who see balance in the world and are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter.