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This solstice brings in summer to the Northern Hemisphere and this year it just moved into place (June 21 at 6:51 A.M. EDT).

The timing of the solstice depends on when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator.

The word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop) from the ancient idea that the Sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice).

In temperate regions, we notice that the Sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the warming that we call we summer. It is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the whole year.

The word SUMMER meaning the “hot season of the year” comes from the Old English sumor  from Proto-Germanic sumur and from many earlier cognates (from Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old High German sumar, Old Frisian sumur, Middle Dutch somer, Dutch zomer)

But why is this first day of summer also known as midsummer’s day (as in the play by Shakespeare, A  Midsummer Night’s Dream)?

The word midsummer also comes to us from Old English. You need to recognize that the old Anglo-Saxon calendar (and the old Icelandic calendar) had only two seasons, summer and winter which divided the year in halves.

Using these calendars, “Midsummer’s Day” would have fallen near the middle of summer in June. It probably wasn’t marked at an exact mid-point. Summer started in mid-April in the old Icelandic calendar. In the old Anglo-Saxon calendar, it fell on the full moon.

Summer and winter are words which have roots in Proto-Germanic. The terms fall and spring were not used to describe seasons until Middle English. The word “autumn” comes from Latin.

In the southern hemisphere, today marks the start of winter.

On this solstice, if you are on the Arctic Circle (latitude 66.56° north), you will see the Sun just on the horizon during midnight, and all places north of it will see the Sun above horizon for 24 hours. That is the midnight sun or midsummer-night sun or polar day.

On the other hand, places on the southern Antarctic Circle (latitude 66.56° south) will see the Sun just on the horizon during midday, and all places south of it will not see the Sun above horizon at any time of the day. That is the polar night.

 

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