Time — or past time, or nearly time — to celebrate

Published 9:51 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2017

By Susan and Biff Andrews

If you weren’t up late — or early, as the case may be — you missed it! The summer solstice occurred at 12:24 a.m. on June 21. Notice that means Americans in Central, Mountain, and Pacific time zones celebrated it late at night on the 20th.

Oh well, everything is relative. Some years it occurs on June 22.

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So what is summer, and when is summer and to whom? For schoolchildren and teachers alike, it is the last day of classes. For merchandisers, it seems to start with Memorial Day sales and end with Labor Day sales.

On the other hand, meteorologists say summer months are June, July and August. This is also called climatological summer, as these are the three hottest months of the annual temperature cycle. So, the dates are June 1 to Aug. 31.

But the third calculation is the most precise: the astronomical summer that occurred at 12:24 today, when the sun was as far north of the equator as it will get this year.

From now on, days will be getting shorter. Today, we will have 14 hours and 40 minutes of daylight — from sunrise at 5:48 a.m. to sunset at 8:28 p.m. Today, the sun will reach its highest point in the sky, almost directly overhead.

So today begins summer, which will end on Sept. 22, the autumnal equinox for all you astronomers.

If you think it’s hard to understand when summer occurs, consider “Midsummer’s Day.” In much of the world, it is celebrated on June 24, and it has somewhat gotten identified with St. John the Baptist, who was born on that date. June 24 was halfway between when crops were planted and when they were harvested.

Sounds logical.

Then there are the Icelanders, who celebrate Midsummer’s Day on the first Thursday after April 18. Seems a bit early? That’s because the old Norse calendar had only two seasons, summer and winter.

In Iceland, it is a public holiday every year. You’d celebrate, too, after a long Icelandic winter.

But, to get back to the summer solstice and how to celebrate it:

If in England, join the Druids at Stonehenge. The sun will rise directly over Heel Stone northeast of the main circle to shine on its center.

If in Latvia, wear a wreath on your head for fertility, ladies. It’s Jani (in Poland, it’s Wianki).

If in Russia or Ukraine, celebrate Kupala night by jumping over a bonfire, guys.

In China, the summer solstice is the yin; the winter solstice is yang.

Native Americans celebrate with ritual dances, especially the Sioux. Ottawa, Canada has a major festival.

Folks who celebrate this day in their yoga practice will do 108 sun salutations today.

Poet John Keats celebrated with a glass of red wine…”a beaker full of the warm south, the blushful Hippocrene.”

In short, today is a special day recognized by people and by peoples around the world. Enjoy!

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.