The summer and winter solstice occur when the earth reaches it's maximum tilt on it's axis, and create both the longest and shortest day of the year, in terms of sunlight. For the summer solstice, the U.K. experiences nearly 17 hours of daylight!
Midsummer's Day and the Summer Solstice normally fall within a few days of each other in mid June. Midsummer's Day falls on the 21st June each year, whereas the solstice may vary slightly depending upon celestial framework, anywhere between the 20th and 24th of June. This difference is thought to be due to the differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
In contrast, the Spring and Autumn experience an equinox instead of a solstice, whereby the hours of daylight and darkness are almost even.
Both Midsummer and the Summer Solstice have been celebrated throughout the years, going right back to Pagan times, where they would light and jump over bonfires! This was thought to ward of evil spirits, as well as bring luck and happy relationships.
Vikings also saw this time of year as special and made the most of the extended hours of light to increase hunting, building and fighting! However, in the Christian calendar, the event is combined with the festival of St. John the Baptist and was a time for the baptism of those who had died as pagans.
Many see the solstice as a magical time of year, and there is much folklore around the earth turning upside down or stopping still at this magical time. This has been seen throughout history and in many cultures, including the ancient Egyptians, who linked the date to worship of the god Ra; the sun god who created all life and the skies.
In the U.K., Stonehenge is thought to be aligned with celestial movements and be a place of great spiritual importance. On Midsummer's Eve, many still gather there to celebrate and reflect.
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