Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 20: The Summer Solstice

      Today was the longest day of the year. Actually the day will be the same length as all the others, it will be twenty-four hours long. It is the daytime part of the day that will be the longest. The sun will rise at 5:15 am and set at 8:31 pm. That will make for 15 hours and 16 minutes of official daytime. That is as good as it gets around here. The day after tomorrow will be shorter and the days will get shorter until December 20th which is the shortest day of the year. Normally, the longest day of the year is June 21st and the shortest is December 21st. 2012 is a leap year, so they occur a day earlier due to this calendar anomaly.
      This is called the summer solstice. It marks the first day of summer. In the southern climes, it is the winter solstice and the first day of winter. I was talking to my friend Andres today in Sao Paulo. We commented on this. I do believe he wished he were here.
     In times well before television and the internet. The summer solstice was a much bigger deal. The farther north in the hemisphere one goes the longer the daylight hours are and the bigger the celebration; think midnight sun. The Scandinavians still celebrate the day with giant bonfires as per the photo of a mega-modern bonfire yesterday in Norway.  Click here to go to a National Geographic article on how the summer solstice has been celebrate through the ages.
     The furthest north I have every been at this time of the year was back in 1991. I was in Hamburg, Germany. I was with Colgate-Palmolive at the time. We were doing a training session for the management team of Colgate Europe and they had chosen a corporate retreat around Hamburg for the event. On June 21, the day of the summer solstice, we ended our day around 5 pm. A few of us took a walk around the lake. It was beautiful. We ran into a German fellow that appeared to be in his 60s. He was going in the opposite direction and he was totally naked. He gave us a cheery good evening as he passed. It was very different and kind of cool. We returned to the resort ate dinner outside, had a few beers. We sat and talked in the idyll setting until it started getting dark. We said our goodnights and went to our rooms.
     When I got back to my room, I glanced at the alarm clock and it said 10:48 pm. I did not believe the time and simply assumed that the electricity had gone out for awhile during the day. I glanced at my watch and it said basically the same thing. Then I realized how far north I was and that I had truly experienced a solstice. It was as close to the midnight sun as I have ever been. It was, as we used to say in our youth, way cool. I could see why the day was celebrated. That was by far the best summer solstice I remember.

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