“Not only is it Summer Solstice, there is a full moon. May love surround you like sunshine on a sunny day.” ~ From Shakespeare’s, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
No full moon until July 4. Nevertheless, the summer solstice occurred exactly at 4:08 p.m. on June 20. Summer officially arrived, although its weather came a bit early, as indicated by spring temperatures exceeding 90 degrees. Not much gloom this June. Typically, it is cool, foggy and wet. This year though we jumped straight into summer, no “on your mark, get set ..” just go! School is out, activities are planned and Abby (the gold pup) has her “hot weather” cut. So, as written in “Where the Wild Things Are,” “And now… let the wild rumpus start!”
For thousands of years, the return of the sun has been celebrated with outdoor festivals, dancing and the gathering of flowers. Warmer weather restores health and brings new life. Food is also plentiful once again. All good reasons to be joyful, especially in the northern latitudes where the sun barely rose above the horizon during the winter.
Many names and interpretations are given to this event depending on location and other influences. Scientific and current knowledge calls it the summer solstice. The earth is tilted on its axis by 23½ degrees. The sun is directly overhead at this point and the furthest point the sun appears to move in the Northern Hemisphere. Days exceed 12 hours in all latitudes north of the equator, with Alaska receiving a full 24 hours of sunlight.
In Shakespearian times, the solstice was called midsummer. It marked the middle of summer, the point between planting and the harvest. Midsummer celebrations often included magic and witchcraft with bonfires to ward off evil spirits. By the Middle Ages with the spread of Christianity, the celebrations embraced the nativity of John the Baptist, who the Bible says was born six months before the birth of Jesus. Over time, the recognition of summer’s beginning may have changed, but astronomically has remained constant.
Ancient cultures knew the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset shifted over the year. They built monuments to follow the sun’s progress. We are perhaps most familiar with Stonehenge, built 5,000 years ago. Located in what is now England, huge stones were erected in a circle aligned with the solstice sunrise. Around the same time in Egypt, the great pyramids and the Sphinx were constructed. As viewed from the Sphinx, the sun sets directly between the pyramids on this day. Structures with similar astronomical significance are found worldwide.
Our first days of summer bring warm temperatures. By Friday and into next week an onshore flow pushes cool cloudy conditions with a slight chance of drizzle into our area. Daytime highs may not exceed 80 degrees, while nights stay in the upper 50s.
Appreciate the coolness, for the heat will soon be on!
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.