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June 21, 2017

Summer Solstice on the Farm: The Solstice and Agriculture

Explore how agriculture has been influenced by the summer solstice on the farm.

June 21st is the first day of summer, and it’s also the summer solstice. The day has many ties to agriculture, making the day an important one. Find out the summer solstice definition and explore the different connections between the solstice and agriculture plus the various summer solstice celebrations that occur on this special day.

The Meaning of the Summer Solstice

You may hear the summer solstice referred to as ‘the longest day of the year,’ but that doesn’t mean it’s a day with 26 hours in it. The true summer solstice definition is the day with the greatest number of hours of sunlight for the Northern Hemisphere. For the half of the Earth north of the Equator, the Earth is tilted towards the sun to receive the maximum amount of sunlight hours. After the solstice, which is also called midsummer, each day’s time span of sunlight decreases a few minutes until we come to the winter solstice, the ‘shortest’ day of the year, in December. After that, sunlight increases again until the next summer solstice.

Also marking the first official day of summer, the summer solstice can fall anywhere from June 20th to June 22nd, depending upon the year. Many religions and cultures host summer solstice activities to mark the day, and many have roots in agriculture.

Summer Solstice on the Farm

The celebration of the summer solstice reaches far back into pagan roots. Since the sun is so closely tied to agriculture, most festivals that honored the sun also honored agriculture. According to a Scientific American article, the ancient Greeks celebrated the festival of Kronia on the summer solstice. It was a festival to honor the god Cronus, the patron god of agriculture. During Kronia, participants would hold feasts and play in games similar to the Olympics.

For the Druids, followers of a Celtic pagan religion, plants harvested on the summer solstice had special, magical properties they wouldn’t have if they were harvested any other day of the year. Similarly, many believe the prehistoric monument in England, Stonehenge, was built by pagan worshipers to mark religious occasions based on the summer solstice. Stonehenge’s ‘heel stone’ is believed to be aligned with the rising of the summer solstice sun. Other monuments, particularly those of the Mayas and Aztecs in Central America, were also built to align with the summer solstice sun.

Modern-Day Solstice Celebrations

Modern-day solstice celebrations are common on the first day of summer. There is an annual event held at Stonehenge at sunrise. If you can’t make it to southern England, try the free, live telescope event on the solstice where Slooh telescopes will be sharing images and videos of the Sun streamed from partners all over the globe. Science guru, Bill Nye the Science Guy, is joining the celebrations. You can also hold your own celebration—outdoors of course—with the traditional feasts, games and bonfires!


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