What is the Summer Solstice?

MGN Online
MGN Online

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – On June 21st, the sun once again reaches its farthest point, which brings us the first day of the summer season.

The summer solstice is also the day where we get to enjoy the most hours of sunlight throughout the whole year, also known as midsummer.

What is happening?

  • June 21st is one of two times each year when the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines.
  • The axis of the earth is an imaginary line that the sun spins around. It goes through the planet between the North and South Poles and is tilted at 23.5 degrees.
  • The tilt is the reason for the four seasons, because 1/2 of the earth is exposed to more rays of the sun for several months.
  • The axis tilts toward the sun between June and September, which causes summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. This is why June 21st is called the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, while it’s called the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

What does the word “solstice” mean?

  • The word “solstice” derives from the Latin word solstitium.
  • It’s built from the word sol, which mean sun, and the word stitium, which means to stop.
  • The translation reflects the fact that the sun appears to stop during the summer solstice.

When exactly it the summer solstice taking place?

  • The summer solstice appears at different hours in the different time zones.
  • The timing of the solstice depends on when the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator.

Is there any history behind the day?

  • In ancient times the people used the solstices to help organize their calendar. This allowed them to manage the plants and harvest crops.
  • Some people believe that Stonehenge was built to help establish when the summer solstice occurred.
  • Over the centuries, the June solstice was a time when festivals, celebrations and other festivities were celebrated all over the world to honor their gods with large feasts and bonfires.
  • In North America, many Native Americans tribes held ritual dances to honor the sun.
  • The Sioux were known to hold one of the most spectacular rituals.

Are there any festivals or events going on in Birmingham to celebrate the occasion?

If you’re still looking for an event to celebrate midsummer, there are a couple of events taking place around Birmingham. The Alabama Theatre is hosting the Birmingham Vaudeville Company’s “Summer Solstice 2013.”

On Friday, the event gives those who attend the chance to experience a mysterious and magical show to benefit the restoration of the Lyric Theatre.

Talents from the Crescent Circus and Erynias Tribe, along with a whole cast of various artists, will perform in this variety vaudeville show.

The event starts at 8 p.m. in the Alabama Theatre.

For more information about this event, click here.

Additionally, the Natural Forces Studio and Birmingham Yoga will celebrate the beginning of summer with yoga, circle dance and bowl meditations to use the energy of the year’s longest day.

Terri Heiman, Shannon Andrews Skipper and Melissa Scott, the event’s leaders, will guide people who choose to attend through practices and exercises of all levels.

Portions of the proceeds of the event will be donated to Sweet Om Alabama, a non-profit organization that seeks to cultivate health and well being among Alabamians.

For more information about the event, click here.

Beatrice Bode contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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