20./21. Juni   Sommersonnenwende

20/21 June Summer Solstice

The summer solstice

The summer solstice is seen as the beginning of the summer season in many countries, such as Central Europe and the USA. In Ireland, however, the period from May 1st  (see also Beltane)  until July 31st is considered summer; the summer solstice is therefore roughly in the middle of the season. In many countries where the calendar summer begins on June 20th/21st, the day of the summer solstice is still called Midsummer/Litha, which may go back to an old common Stone Age calendar.

Stone Age cult sites such as Stonehenge recorded this point in time using the relatively easy-to-determine sunrise and sunset points, which at the beginning of winter are roughly in the southeast and southwest. The Nebra Sky Disk, an important Bronze Age find in Nebra near Halle/Saale, also documents the solstice.

Some people have always considered the summer solstice to be a mystical day, while others celebrate it with secular or religious festivities. Solstice festivals have had a firm place in the Germanic, Nordic, Baltic, Slavic and Celtic religions in particular. The largest unorganized summer solstice celebration in Europe takes place at Stonehenge, the largest in Germany at the Externsteine. The southernmost summer solstice celebration has been held in the Spanish region of Alicante since 1929. The Golowan Festival takes place in Cornwall and was first described by William Borlase in 1754.

In Ásatrú (Asentreu), the so-called Midsummer Festival is the second most important festival of the year after Yule. The fire festivals at the summer solstice in the Pyrenees have been recognized as an intangible world cultural heritage since 2015.

Historical and cultural aspects of the solstice

The worship of the sun and the returning light goes back to traditions in prehistoric times. The sun is essential for earthly survival. The summer solstice carried an aspect of death and transience. In contrast, the lengthening days after the winter solstice embodied life and resurrection.

These turning points were reflected in rituals and mythology. It is noteworthy that in Western culture the sun is always associated with the male principle, but there is an exception in the Germanic language area, which sees the sun as the mother. The greater the difference between the harsh winter and the warm summer, the more intensely this day has always been celebrated. In northern Europe, where the nights no longer get dark in the summer season (people also speak of the White Nights), solstice celebrations - known as midsummer festivals - are more important than in southern Europe, for example.

Text source: Wikipedia

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