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The History of Summer Solistice

Summer Solstice has been celebrated in many cultures at least as long as history has been recorded. When early peoples began to devise a way of marking the passage of seasons to organize their planting and harvesting, the cycle could easily be recognized by paying attention to the solstices and equinoxes. They divide the year into quarters, respectively. The equinoxes are the two days of the year when the balance of daytime and nighttime are equal, and the solstices are the two days when the daytime is longest or shortest. In the Northern hemisphere the Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, while in the Southern hemisphere it is the shortest. Likewise, Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year in the Northern hemisphere, and the shortest night of the year in the Southern hemisphere. When studying holidays and cultural celebrations surrounding the solstices, one should recognize that literature often discuses these customs as though everyone lives in the Northern hemisphere, where winter comes between November and January and summer comes somewhere between June and August. It may be useful to understanding various mythologies to recognize the placement of an agricultural cycle; when things are planted, when they grow, and when they are harvested.

Summer solstice in most cultures is the time when the growth season is at it's apex, and preparations for harvest are being made. Grains flourish, and are near to the best time for being reaped and ground to later become bread and other foods. Fruit trees that bear flowers in spring have lost their petals, and begun to grow and ripen the grapes and apples and other sweet things of nature that will be ready soon after the grains. Traditionally, the harvest season follows the pattern of grains, then fruits and vegetables, and then meats later in the Fall season. At Summer solstice everything growing is nearing it's apex and being prepared for harvest. To early man this was very important, as the bounty of Summer becomes that which feeds a people through the longer and often harder Winter months. Most peoples developed rituals and celebrations to honor the cycle of the season's, and to in their own ways pray for and encourage a fruitful year.

The celebrations of most peoples included bonfires and representations of fire, to honor the apex of light. Often they included dancing, drumming, singing, and great feasts with libations of honey mead and types of ancient beer. The ancient Celts sometimes depicted a fight between the Oak King and the Holly King, which the Oak King who reigned over Summer would win and be crowned after. In ancient China, Summer Solstice was a celebration of femininity and earthy things, the force of yin- while Winter solstice was a celebration of masculine or yang forces. The ancient Germanic and Slavic peoples hosted festivals of love and fertility, and from that our modern tradition of Summer weddings has evolved. Today many modern Neo Pagan groups try to recreate and celebrate some of the festivals of the past, holding bonfire parties and feasts in honor of the turning wheel of the year.

Nikki Stevens
Fri, 30 Apr 2010 01:00:55 +0000

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