International Observance: Celebrate the solstice!

TUESDAY, JUNE 21: It’s officially midsummer, and nations circling the Northern Hemisphere mark the summer solstice today. Specifically, it occurs as our portion of the Earth is tilted most extremely toward the sun. The solstice itself lasts only for a moment, but the entire day is bathed in sunlight and in many regions, the season is known as midsummer. In all countries except those in polar regions, the day of summer solstice has more minutes of sunlight than any other day. Wikipedia has details.

We haven’t forgotten you readers in the Southern Hemisphere! Your summer solstice falls in December—and today is your shortest period of sunlight. Wikipedia has a long list of Winter Solstice cultural festivals that circle the globe, now, given the great migrations over the past century.


Starting in the early 1980s, the Canadian National Indian Brotherhood—now called the Assembly of First Nations—began calling for an observance on June 21, chosen because of the ancient, auspicious nature of the solstice. The campaign continued until 1996, when the first National Aboriginal Day was held. Today, the observance is part of a cluster of summer celebrations in Canada that reflect that nation’s history and cultural diversity. Wikipedia outlines the wider range of holidays.

Last Saturday, First Nations people rejoiced early when they were granted access to the same human rights protections as the rest of Canada’s citizens. (Check out the story here.) Unfortunately, this access was brought to an unprepared First Nations people who, Canadian news sources report, are still unsure of exactly how this will effect living conditions and social peace.

Wherever you live in the world: The term “solstice” is derived from Latin: “sol” is translated to “sun,” and “sistere” is “to stand still.” Today, the sun appears to stop in its tracks before changing direction on its path. (Get an Indian perspective at The Hindu.)

Summer solstice remains the most important event of the year at Stonehenge. (Check out the official site for more.) Each year on June 20 and 21, thousands gather to watch the June 21 sunrise. At sunrise on the solstice, the Altar stone of Stonehenge aligns with the Slaughter stone, Heel stone and the sun. Several of the solstice Stonehenge visitors are Wiccans and Pagans, as these devotees hold great celebrations for such celestial events. ( has more.) Known as Litha, Wiccans and Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere spend today honoring the Sun God and eating fruits and vegetables from the garden.

Wherever you live around the world, if you’re reading this story—we wish you an awe-inspiring solstice! And, hey, if you do live in one of the Southern Hemisphere countries where we have regular readers—shoot us an email at [email protected] and tell us how you’re marking this occasion!

Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.




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