Happy Summer Solstice, Trevlig midsommar and Happy Sankt Hans Aften to you all.

Traditionally, in temperate regions (especially Europe), the summer solstice is seen as the middle of summer and referred to as “midsummer”; although today in some countries and calendars it is seen as the beginning of summer.

Summer solstice is an astronomical event that marks the longest day of the year and the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It nearly always falls on June 21, but can also fall on June 20 or June 22 depending on the year and time zone you are in.

Swedish Midsummer, or Midsommar, is a big deal. Midsummer in Sweden is celebrated throughout the country, with many people leaving the cities and instead going to more pastoral areas to party in nature.

Midsummer is celebrated in many countries but is synonymous with Scandinavia, where it is observed as a national holiday in Sweden and Finland. In Sweden, it is celebrated on a Friday between June 19th and 25th, while in Finland it is always observed on a Saturday between June 20th and 26th.

Midsummer takes place in June and celebrates the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. It is one of the most celebrated holidays in Sweden. A traditional lunch is served in the garden with pickled herring, new potatoes, cured salmon and drinking snaps followed by a drinking song.

Midsummer Day, as an English quarter-day, was June 24. Astronomically June 21, but traditionally reckoned in Europe on the night of June 23-24. The 21st of June is known as Midsummer. It is the time when the sun achieves its highest arc, at the midsummer solstice.

In Denmark, it is Sankt Hans Aften (St John’s Eve) and since the time of the Vikings, it has been a huge celebration to mark midsummer and bring people together. Traditionally the bonfire takes place on the beach, and everyone can join in, or in Copenhagen, it takes place in the harbour.

Most of Denmark’s holidays are based around the Christian calendar, with Christmas, Easter and the midsummer festival of Saint Hans among the most important. Each of these holidays comes with its own traditions and family gatherings.

Saint John’s Eve (Sankthansaften) is celebrated in the same manner in Denmark as Walpurgis Night (Valborg) is in Sweden. At dusk large bonfires are lit all over the country, typically accompanied by communal singing of Midsommervisen by Holger Drachmann. Atop each bonfire often an effigy of a witch is placed (harking back to the days of witch trials, when real women were burned at the stake). The origin of this custom is a Danish folk belief that Saint John’s Eve is also the night of a witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains in central Germany.


Midsummer Eve Bonfire on Skagen Beach (1906), is an artistic depiction of the traditional Danish bonfire.

Traditionally, the bonfires were lit to fend off witches, but today – when the witch effigy catches fire – she is said to be “flying away to Brocken” (Danish: “Bloksbjerg”), which can be interpreted as helping the witch on her way. On Saint John’s Eve and Saint John’s Day, churches arrange Saint John’s services and family reunions also occur, which are an occasion for drinking and eating.

Summer Solstice marks that moment when the sun reaches that point when it is positioned farthest north — 23.5 degrees from the celestial equator. This point on the Earth is known as the Tropic of Cancer. The word solstice literally means “sun standing still.” It is derived from combining the Latin words sol for “sun” and sister for “To Stand Still”.

For the previous six months, the sun has appeared to migrate on a northerly course in the sky. At the moment of the solstice, that motion stops and then the sun will begin to move south. An activity that will continue for six months until the sun drops to its lowest point below the equator and then stop — another solstice point — marking the beginning of winter.

The summer solstice or estival solstice occurs when one of Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern and Southern). For that hemisphere, the summer solstice is the day with the longest period of daylight and the shortest night of the year, when the Sun is at its highest position in the sky. At either pole, there is continuous daylight at the time of its summer solstice. The opposite event is the winter solstice.

The summer solstice occurs during the hemisphere’s summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the June solstice (20 or 21 June); in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the December solstice (21 or 22 December). Since prehistory, the summer solstice has been a significant time of year in many cultures and has been marked by festivals and rituals. Traditionally, in temperate regions (especially Europe), the summer solstice is seen as the middle of summer and referred to as midsummer; although today in some countries and calendars it is seen as the beginning of summer.

On the summer solstice, Earth’s maximum axial tilt toward the Sun is 23.44°. Likewise, the Sun’s declination from the celestial equator is 23.44°.

Diagram of Earth’s seasons as seen from the north. Far left: Summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. Front right: Summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere.

Although the summer solstice is the longest day of the year for that hemisphere, the dates of the earliest sunrise and latest sunset vary by a few days. This is because Earth orbits the Sun in an ellipse, and its orbital speed varies slightly during the year.

There is evidence that the summer solstice has been culturally important since the Neolithic era. Many ancient monuments in Europe especially, as well as parts of the Middle East, Asia and the Americas, are aligned with the sunrise or sunset on the summer solstice (see archaeoastronomy). The significance of the summer solstice has varied among cultures, but most recognize the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals around that time with themes of fertility. In the Roman Empire, the traditional date of the summer solstice was 24 June. In Germanic-speaking cultures, the time around the summer solstice is called ‘midsummer’. Traditionally in northern Europe midsummer was reckoned as the night of 23–24 June, with summer beginning on May Day. The summer solstice continues to be seen as the middle of summer in many European cultures, but in some cultures or calendars, it is seen as summer’s beginning. In Sweden, midsummer is one of the year’s major holidays when the country closes down as much as during Christmas.

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