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Throw a Summer Solstice Party!

Throw a Summer Solstice Party!

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Updated on Jun 19, 2008

It’s Summer Solstice! This earthly event, taking place each year on the 21st of June, is when the northern half of the Earth is tilted towards the sun—making it the longest day of the year for folks in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Summer Solstice provides a great learning opportunity for kids of all ages. Here are some fun facts about this special time of year:

Science
The equator is an imaginary line that divides the Earth in half between the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. The Earth is divided by another imaginary line, called the axis, which goes right through the North and South Poles. The Earth rotates on its axis once every 24 hours, which is why we have day and night. The axis is tipped a little as it moves around the sun, which gives us the seasons. It gets hot in the summer in the Northern Hemisphere because that’s when the top half of the earth is tipped towards the sun—and it’s tipped the most on the day of the Summer Solstice. But, if you were in the Southern Hemisphere on Summer Solstice, you’d be bundled up for winter! The Arctic Circle is another imaginary line (also known as a circle of latitude). Though most of the Arctic Circle is ice-covered ocean, it passes through several countries, including Norway, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Iceland. On the Arctic Circle, the sun stays out for 24 hours! But in the Antarctic Circle, another circle of latitude containing Antarctica, it is dark for 24 hours on this day.

Culture
The word “Solstice” is really two Latin words smooshed together: sol meaning sun, and sistere meaning to stand still. This
is because, as the days lengthen around the 21st of June, the sun seems to stand still in the sky. Struck by the amazing power of the sun, many cultures hosted large feasts and celebrations during Summer Solstice. For Christians, it’s the Feast of St. John the Baptist. For Wiccans it’s Litha. For Pagans it’s Midsummer. For Chinese, it’s a celebration honoring Li, the Goddess of Light.

You can host your own Summer Solstice Party by taking a little bit of tradition from a smorgasbord of cultures both ancient and current. Here are some ideas:

Build a Bonfire
Many Summer Solstice traditions center on the life-giving force of fire and light. The Celts lit a bonfire and danced to help increase the sun’s energy. If you have a backyard, or access to a campground where you can host a small bonfire, then you’re well on your way to bringing back Solstice traditions. First, contact your local Fire Department to check regulations for bonfires in your area.

To make a bonfire:

Step 1
Start by making a circle of rocks around the area where you want your bonfire. In the middle, place two logs parallel to each other about 6 inches apart.

Step 2
Collect a bundle of small dry twigs and, keeping the bundle tight, place it between the logs, with one side leaning up against the side of a log. Next, place several pieces of kindling on either side of the bundle, leaving a space for you to light the bottom of the bundle.

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