The natural phenomenon, the longest day in 2021, falls on June 21. The summer solstice opens astronomical summer to the inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere, and Vice versa, winter-to the southern hemisphere. The maximum distance moves the sun away from the celestial equator. In the old days, the phenomenon was called solstice, as it began to change the midday height of the star in the opposite direction. The increase in daylight hours after the specified date was stopped, and the decreasing process was started. In many cultures, the longest day, or the shortest night of the year, was considered a mystical event, an important holiday.
A little bit of astronomy
On June 21, all residents of the Northern hemisphere get maximum sunlight. According to the calculations of astronomers, the longest days may fall on the period from 19 to 22 June. Most often, the summer solstice is celebrated on June 21, in leap years-on June 20, and on the 22nd day, the longest day falls in the foreseeable future only in the year 2203.
Solstice calculations are carried out for years ahead, but astronomical accuracy is tied not only to dates, but also to a specific time with reference to the zero Meridian, the zero time zone. Therefore, in one place, GMT, the longest day may start on June 20, and in another, due to the difference in time zones, it will only come on June 21. In the definition of astronomical events, dates are linked to universal time.
The length of daylight varies from climate zone to climate zone. If this year the day of June 21 in New-York lasts 17 hours 34 minutes, then in Yekaterinburg 17 hours 51 minutes, and in Vorkuta-a full 24 hours (there from may 30 to may 12, the sun does not set at all).
The summer solstice passed under the constellation of Taurus, which happened recently, in 1988. Scientists explain the displacement of a point from the constellation Gemini by the process of precession — a change in the position of the earth’s axis, which occurs under the influence of the attraction of the Sun and moon.
History of the holiday
People have shown a special worship of the Sun for a long time, even before our era. Many cultures have a solstice festival. The Northern inhabitants appreciated it especially, as they had more joy in meeting summer after a long winter. Traditions of the celebration originated in the time of the pagans. People believed that the observance of rituals on this day would ensure happiness, good luck, and health for the next year, and they hoped that the enormous power of the sun would help fulfill their wish.
During the Christian era, pagan traditions were banned, and the Church tried to replace the date with rites in honor of the birth of Ivan the Baptist (June 24). But in the minds of people, a special attitude to the date, a natural phenomenon, was preserved, although the Slavs celebrated the feast of Ivan Kupala on the longest day of the year. With the transition to the Gregorian calendar, it stopped falling on the solstice period.
Rituals associated with the summer solstice are still performed in different countries, and in Finland, johannus, as the longest day is called, is a public holiday.
Many beliefs are associated with the mystical day of the solstice:
- bad weather on June 21 was associated with the current year’s crop failure;
- the starry sky was believed to promise mushrooms in the fall;
- heavy dew in the morning was taken as a good sign of a rich harvest;
- the collected herbs were believed to have a special healing effect.
Ancient people believed that water on this day acquires magical properties, so they collected dew for healing procedures, doused each other, and bathed in reservoirs.
The triumph of vital forces was seen in procreation. It was believed that if a girl is doused by a young man, he will become a betrothed. Children born on June 21 were feared, as they recognized in them the power of energy, the ability to”stare”.
The magic power of fire was of great importance. Bonfires were lit to protect people from all evil spirits, and mothers burned clothes from sick children, believing in their healing. Brave participants in the rites jumped over the fire, freeing themselves from all evil, gaining strength.
Celebrations in different countries
Pagan heritage is preserved in the traditions and rituals of different peoples:
- in Lithuania, Finland, cattle were driven between bonfires to protect them from death;
- in Belarus, wooden wheels were set on fire, rolled down a mountain, which symbolized solstice;
- in Latvia, on the longest day, the God of fertility Janis and the patron Saint of songs Ligo are revered. All boys and girls with such names (Janis and Liga) are given wreaths of oak and wildflowers;
- in England, residents come to the places of rituals of Celtic druids, in Stonehenge. Only on this day is it allowed to touch the sacred stones;
- in Spain, old furniture and interior items are burned in bonfires, symbolically and actually clearing life of junk.
Many peoples welcome the time of weddings on the date of the solstice, as marriages on this day are considered the strongest. A mandatory attribute of the celebration is a lavish feast, booze and folk festivals.