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Summer Solstice: What does it mean, what is its significance?

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year as the Earth receives daylight for the longest duration.

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New Delhi: In the northern hemisphere, June 21 is the day of the summer solstice. On this day, the Earth is at its maximum tilt towards the Sun, hence it marks the beginning of the astronomical summer. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year as the Earth receives daylight for the longest duration.

The Earth orbits the Sun at a certain angle. Due to this, for half of the year, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun and thus, it experiences summers and for the rest half, the Earth is titled toward the southern hemisphere, thus creating winters in the northern hemisphere. This is how seasons on Earth change.

Solstices occur twice a year, one in summers and one in winters and this is interchanged depending on the hemisphere you live in. The term “solstice” originated from the Latin word “sol” which means sun and “sistere” which means stationary or stand still.

Based on Earth’s current orbit, the summer solstice occurs between June 20, 21 and 22. It is not fixed as it depends on the physics of the solar system and not on the human calendar. There are several other names for the summer solstice. It is called Midsummer or First Day of Summer, while it is called  Litha by Wiccans and other Neopagan groups. Some churches mark it as St John’s Day to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist.

Solstices have a great cultural impact. Christmas happens around the day of the summer solstice in Australia and some other countries in the southern hemisphere. Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia celebrate “Noc Kupaly” or Kupala during the shortest night of the year.

This festival involves rituals like herb collecting, bonfire lighting and bathing in a river. Also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose this day as International Yoga Day.

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