The Longest Day of the Year

In East Central Alabama, it feels like summer long before the June solstice. We’ve already been in tomato season for nearly two months by then. What is the point of observing an occurrence so astronomically removed from us? A solstice occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the Sun. The summer solstice is the day with the longest period of daylight. At the Arctic circle, in fact, the sun shines continuously on this day in the northern hemisphere.

In preindustrial times, before our modern diversified economy, tracking the sun and its activity was crucial for agriculture and human survival. Over millennia, humans throughout the world discovered seasons and solstices. We developed ceremonies and rites to celebrate nature’s periods of fertility, harvesting, and hibernation. 

The ancient polytheistic religions of the world, modern Paganism, and even Christianity have glorified this day when sunlight lasts the longest. Beyond the literal meanings for life on Earth, with what symbolic meanings have we imbued the summer solstice?