Summer Solstice

22 June 2022

The summer solstice is when the Earth is at maximum tilt at the North Pole (about 23.5 degrees) which, in the Northern Hemisphere, means the point where we have the greatest amount of daylight and the least amount of darkness.  It marks the beginning of summer.  The calendar date may vary but is generally June 20, 21 or 22.  This year it was last Tuesday, June 21.

While it is called the first day of summer, meteorologists divide the year based on temperature and weather patterns.   For them summer is June 1 to August 31.

Although this is the day with the longest period of daylight hours, the earliest sunrises actually occur prior to the solstice and the latest sunsets are several days later.  This will vary by latitude.  It happens because the Earth rotates and its orbit is elliptical around the sun and not circular.  The sun will set at the farthest right point you can see.  So, if you are interested in an evening romantic stroll watching the sunset, you know when to schedule it.

If you are an early riser, you may notice that the sunrise is on the farthest left horizon and seems to curve across the sky, not a straight line.  It seems to keep moving to the right as it passes overhead.  During the equinoxes in March and September, the sun seems to take a very direct and straight path.

As the sun reaches its northernmost point, the Tropic of Cancer, it will seem to reverse its direction and move south.  Of course, the sun doesn’t really move but our perception of it makes for an interesting consideration.

The summer solstice is different from Midsummer’s Day, which is June 24.  This date is considered the mid point between planting and harvesting.  Of course, that will depend on what crops you are growing.  Nonetheless, it can be an occasion to celebrate just for the fun of it.

June’s full moon, this year June 14, is called a Strawberry Moon since it often coincides with the perfect ripening of the berries here in the Northeast.  Some local farms offer a pick-your-own-strawberries, which is a fun activity for the whole family, surpassed only by the shortcakes and pies that follow.

Several cultures celebrate these events with a bonfire. Latvian legend says that the night before Midsummer is spent awake by the glow of a bonfire in hope of finding a magical fern flower.  If you would like to enjoy a firelight evening and/or night, a safer option would be the patio around your fire pit.  Spend the sunset and early evening with s’mores and your beverage of choice.

There are some interesting folk lore surrounding this time of the year.

  • Deep snow in winter, tall grain in summer. –Estonian proverb
  • When the summer birds take their flight, goes the summer with them.
  • If it rains on Midsummer’s Eve, the filbert crops will be spoiled. –Unknown
  • One swallow never made a summer.
  • Easterly winds from May 19 to the 21 indicate a dry summer.
  • If there are many falling stars during a clear summer evening, expect thunder. If there are none, expect fine weather.

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