This weekend in the UK and across Europe we will be celebrating the longest day of the year, also known as the summer solstice. I will be lucky enough to be celebrating the longest day of the year in beautiful North Wales where my family come from. It is a spiritual place for me and great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of London and to enjoy all extra hours of daylight!
This special time of year has been time of celebration for centuries, with all sort of different traditions and customs to welcome the changing of the seasons. Here in the UK the celebrations are extra special as thousands are set to gather at the ancient monument Stonehenge to mark the 2015 solstice on 21 June.
Why is it the longest day of the year? A solstice is an astronomical event that occurs twice a year when the Sun reaches its highest or lowest point in its path as seen from the Earth, as the planet orbits the Sun. The summer solstice usually marks the midpoint of summer and is the longest day of the year with the longest period of sunlight in the year. The winter solstice has the shortest period of sunlight in the year. In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice takes place between June 20 and June 22, but for our friends in the southern hemisphere it occurs between December 20 and December 21.
Each year on the 21 June visitors from around the world gather at Stonehenge overnight to mark the summer solstice and to see the sunrise above the stones. At dawn the central Altar stone aligns with the Slaughter stone, Heel stone and the rising sun to the northeast.
The Summer Solstice is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge and a truly magical time to be there. It’s an ad hoc celebration that brings together England’s New Age Tribes (neo-druids, neo-pagans, Wiccans) with ordinary families, tourists, travellers and party people – 1000’s of them! For many the impulse to arrive at Stonehenge in time for the Solstice is akin to a spiritual experience. The crowd become silent as the sky begins to brighten as they enjoy the 3 – 4 hours within the circle at sunset on June 20th or sunrise on June 21st.