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By: Lulu Gleason

Most people know the summer solstice as that day of the year with the longest period of daylight. Solstice is an astronomical even that happens twice a year. It’s the time in which the sun reaches either it’s most northernmost or southernmost position in the sky.

The name Solstice comes from the Latin name sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). Both Equinox and the Solstice’s are connected to the seasons. It’s also known as Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Northern Solstice, June Solstice, or the Latin name Aestival Solstice.

Most cultures consider the equinox and solstice as the start of or to separate the seasons. June 20th, 2012 will be the summer solstice for the northern hemisphere winter solstice for the southern hemisphere. The reason behind the difference depending on the hemisphere is when we in the northern hemisphere have summer it’s winter down in the southern hemisphere. This is largely due to the axis tilt of the earth.

Many different cultures celebrate the solstice differently. For an example of this you have Midsummer’s day celebrated by many Europeans. June’s Solstice is only 3 day’s prior to that particular day. A lot of cultures tend to use the Equinox and the solstice in various celebrations. In the United Kingdom Midsummer Eve is usually celebrated with lighting of bon fires, feasting and plenty of fun festivals.

In the Wiccan, druid, or in Germanic neopaganism (or Theodism) religions the summer solstice is also known as Litha which is an ancient Celtic tradition. There are early chronicles kept by early Christian monks, along with surviving folklore that tell of how people would celebrate.

They had gatherings on top of hills with bonfires and was considered a time to honor the space between the earth and the heaven. In modern Christianized calendars Midsummer Day is also the birthday feast of John the Baptist.

Russian cultures celebrate Ivan Kupala Day (summer solstice) it’s one of the most expressive Russian folk and pagan holidays. It’s a pagan fertility right which was accepted into the orthodox Christian calendar where the festivals have girls and boys jump over the flames of bonfires. Girls would also float flower garlands into the waters or rivers and tell their fortunes from the movements.

Unfortunately not much is known about the traditional festivals of Native Americans and the summer solstice. Many believe it was important to the culture because there appear to have been monuments created by Native Americans in many areas in the western United States. People who do practice Native American beliefs tend to head to places like Colorado or Wyoming for the sun god (Summer Solstice) festivals.

Northern Native Americans are more known to practice this festival which is very similar to the druid (pagan) practices to welcome the season. The season usually comes with good luck, huge feasts and many celebrations still practiced among today’s society.

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