Party time: Druids, pagans and revellers take part in a winter solstice ceremony at Stonehenge
There’s a very British pessimism that says it’s all downhill from here, and we might as well pack away our shorts and sunglasses and dust off our wellington boots in preparation for the autumn. As the summer solstice approaches, everyone starts talking about the fact that the days will soon start shortening into winter.
But the summer is far from over. As well as being the longest day of the year, the solstice is also a time for shenanigans at Stonehenge , general celebrations and a pause to celebrate the summer.
And if the solstice itself wasn’t enough, this year we get the bonus of a big beautiful Strawberry Moon , which hits its peak on the same day.
Here’s everything you need to know about the summer solstice 2016.
What is it?
It’s generally understood to mark the middle of summer – even though some of us may feel like we haven’t really had the first half yet in the UK.
Technically, it’s when the tilt of Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun, and that’s why we get the most daylight of the year.
In the winter solstice, we’re tilted furthest away from the sun, hence shorter hours of daylight and the shortest day.
The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).
Read more: New Stonehenge alignment theory proved right as monument’s tallest stone points at solstice sunset
When is it?
In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice takes place between June 20 and 22. This year it’s on Monday, June 20 .
The shortest day of the year is known as the winter solstice, and occurs between December 20 and 22. This year it is on December 21.
In London, on the summer solstice, the sun will rise at 04:43 and set at 21:21.
Near Stonehenge in Salisbury, sunrise will be at 04:52 and sunset will occur at 21:26.
The midsummer solstice is being celebrated at Stonehenge on Monday, June 20, into Tuesday, June 21.
Thousands flock to the English Heritage site for the solstice in a tradition which has its roots in pagan times, when Midsummer Day was considered to have power.
Of those who attend, many are druids, but some are tourists.
The way that the stones are positioned is said to be aligned with sunrises on the two annual solstices.
Read more: Stonehenge attracts thousands as Pagans mark longest day of the year with celebration
Although not much is known about its formation, those facts are thought to be involved with whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to its construction.
The monument field at Stonehenge is open from 19:00 on Monday to 08:00 on Tuesday. Admission is free, but parking fees apply.
The Solstice Car Park opens at 19:00 on June 20, with last admissions at 06:00 (or when full, if earlier) on June 21. The car park will close at 12 noon on June. 21
Visitors, including sunrise-worshipping Druids for whom it is a religious occasion, are encouraged to use public transport or arrange to car share.
The solstice is also celebrated at the Avebury stone circle from Monday, June 20, until Wednesday, June 22.
How else do people celebrate it?
It’s not just for the arch-druids in Wiltshire – there are celebrations worldwide among lots of different cultures.
The holidays, festivals and rituals do tend to have themes of religion or fertility.
Read more: ‘Fridgehenge’ pranksters mark summer solstice with homage to Stonehenge – made out of white goods
In Latvia there’s Jāņi, when women wear wreaths on their heads. Estonia has Jaanipäev or St John’s Day, which marks a change in the farming year.
Wianki happens in Poland, with roots in a pagan religious event, and Kupala Night happens in Russia and Ukraine, where people jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery and faith.
Full ‘Strawberry’ moon
As if the summer solstice wasn’t iconic enough, this year it coincides with the full moon, which hits its peak on the same day – something that hasn’t happened since 1948.
“Having a full moon land smack on the solstice is a truly rare event,” says Farmer’s Almanac astronomer Bob Berman.
The June full moon was known to early Native American tribes as the “Strawberry Moon”, because it marked the beginning of the strawberry season, and served as a signal to start gathering ripening fruit.
Are the days going to be shorter now?
They will of course get shorter between now and the winter solstice on December 21, but don’t worry, we’re not talking dark evenings quite yet.
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