From sacred ceremonies and harvest celebrations to mass yoga gatherings and and all-night ragers at Stonehenge, the significance of the Summer Solstice throughout history is undeniable. To this day, it remains one of the most recognized cross-cultural observances in the world. Here are six things you may not know about the Summer Solstice — and six ways to celebrate it in Colorado:
1. The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. In Colorado, the solstice will start at 9:54 a.m. MST on Friday, June 21, when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees north latitude.
2. The word “solstice” translates as “sun standing still.” It's derived from the Latin "sol" (sun) and "sistere" (to stand still), and refers to the point at which the sun’s visual trajectory across the horizon appears to come to a halt. Solstices are opposite on either side of the equator, so the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa.
3. International Yoga Day, approved unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, coincides with the Summer Solstice. In his U.N. address, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested the date of June 21 because “it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world.”
4. In Hinduism and yoga culture, 108 has long been considered a sacred number; it's also estimated that the sun and moon each measure 108 times their respective diameters to Earth. Traditionally, yogis perform 108 sunrise salutations in honor of the Summer Solstice. This ritual practice is said to help inspire discipline, devotion, commitment and focus.
5. During ancient times, the Summer Solstice was celebrated in different ways. Ancient Egyptians honored their fertility goddess, Epona, while the Greeks celebrated special-exception festivities where slaves and free men participated as equals. In ancient China, the Summer Solstice was viewed as an expression of yin (feminine energy), which was balanced by the yang (masculine energy) of the winter solstice; the day focused heavily on honoring the Earth and Nature. Pagans recognized balance in their own way, most notably by rolling giant wheels of fire into bodies of water to symbolize the equality between elements.
6. Traditionally, this is a day for setting intentions and making goals. Within many ancient traditions, the sky was revered as a compass, calendar and clock. As a result, the Summer Solstice typically marked the first day of the year. Across a variety of cultures, it also reflected a sacred period associated with fertility, the harvest and light.
But the summer solstice is also a time to celebrate. Here are six ways to mark the Summer Solstice in Colorado:
27th Annual Scandinavian Midsummer Festival
Friday, June 21, 4 to 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 22, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, June 23, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
170 MacGregor Avenue, Estes Park
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Free Guided Nature Hike in the Bluffs: Celebrating the Summer Solstice
Friday, June 21, 7 p.m.
Willowcreek Trail in Lone Tree
Summer Solstice Psychic Fair
Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, June 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days
SpiritWays Metaphysical Shop, 3301 East Colfax Avenue
Summer Solstice Reggae Rally
Saturday, June 22, 7 p.m.
Herman's Hideaway, 1578 South Broadway.