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Religious information about the Summer Solstice/Midsummer

Part 1: Overview. Solstice dates & times.
Different views. Why does it happen?

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The Summer Solstice is also known as: Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin,
All-couples day, Feast of Epona, Feast of St. John the Baptist,
Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Midsummer,
Sonnwend Thing-Tide, Vestalia, etc.

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People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice. On this day, typically JUN-21, the daytime hours are at a maximum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a minimum. It is officially the first day of summer. It is also referred to as Midsummer because it is roughly the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe.

"Solstice" is derived from two Latin words: "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere," to cause to stand still. This is because, as the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before. In this sense, it "stands still." 

(In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice is celebrated about DEC-21, also when the night time is at a minimum and the daytime is at a maximum. We will assume that the reader lives in the Northern hemisphere for the rest of this essay. About 90% of the world's population are "Northerners.") 1

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The dates and times of the summer solstice in the earth's northern hemisphere:

The exact date varies from year to year and may occur between the 20th and 22rd of June in the Northern Hemisphere. `The most common date is JUN-21. JUN-20 is the rarest.


Summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere;
Winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (UT)

JUN-21 @ 11:28
JUN-21 @ 17:16
JUN-20 @ 23:09
JUN-21 @ 05:04
JUN-21 @ 10:51
JUN-21 @ 16:38
JUN-20 @ 22:34
JUN-21 @ 04:24
JUN-21 @ 10:07
JUN-21 @ 15:54
JUN-20 @ 21:44

The above dates and times were taken from a Wikipedia chart. 2

The earliest date & time for the summer soltice during the past 100 years was on 2012-JUN-20 at 23:09:55 UT. The latest was on 1915-JUN-22 at 12:29:43 UT. 3

Times are in UT (Universal Time). This used to be called Greenwich Mean Time or GMT.

In the U.S. and Canada, you can find your local time by subtracting:

bullet 2 hours 30 minutes for NDT (Newfoundland time)
bullet 3 hours for ADT
bullet 4 hours for EDT 
bullet 5 hours for CDT
bullet 6 hours for MDT
bullet 7 hours for PDT
bullet 8 hours for AKDT

10 hours for HST in Paradise (a.k.a. Hawaii) 4

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How people view solstice celebrations:

People view other religions in various ways, and thus treat the celebrations of other faiths differently:

  • For some people, religious diversity is a positive factor within their country's culture. They enjoy the variety of June celebrations, because it is evidence of wide range of of beliefs within our common humanity. They respect both their own religious traditions and those of other faiths for their ability to inspire people to lead more ethical lives.

  • Others reject the importance of all celebrations other than the holy day(s) recognized by their own religion. Some even reject their religion's traditional holy days if they are convinced that they have Pagan origins. This is a common occurrence with Easter and Christmas among some conservative Christians..

  • Some view other religions as being inspired, controlled, or even led by Satan. Thus the solstice celebrations of other religions are ignored or avoided because they are viewed as Satanic in origin.

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Why does the summer solstice happen?

Some people believe that the heat of Summer happens because the Earth is closest to the sun at this time of year. In reality, the Earth's orbit is eliptical in shape and the Earth is farthest from the Sun during summer.

The seasons of the year are actually caused by the 23.5° tilt of the earth's axis. Because the earth is rotating on its axis like a top or gyroscope, the North Pole points in a fixed direction continuously. It towards a point in space near the North Star. 5 But the earth is also revolving around the sun. During half of the year, the southern hemisphere is more exposed to the sun than is the northern hemisphere. During the rest of the year, the reverse is true. At noontime in the Northern Hemisphere the sun appears high in the sky during summertime, and low during winter. The time of the year when the sun reaches its maximum elevation occurs on the summer solstice -- the day with the greatest number of daylight hours. It typically occurs on JUN-21 -- the first day of summer. At that time and day, the sun is directly overhead for persons at the Tropic of Cancer. This is an east-west line around the earth at 23 degrees 27 minutes North Latitude.

The lowest sun elevation at noontime occurs about DEC-21. This is the winter solstice -- the first day of winter -- when the night-time hours reach their maximum in the Northern Hemisphere.

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This topic continues in the next essay with a description of dozens of
celebrations across time and around the world at this time of the year.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Ashley Lutz, "MAP OF THE DAY: Pretty Much Everyone Lives In The Northern Hemisphere," Business Insider, 2012-MAY-04, at:
  2. "Solstice," Wikipedia, as on 2011-DEC-02, at:
  3. Dates and times ... northern summer ... begins ... from 1600 to 2400, NeoProgrammics PHP Science Labs, at:
  4. World Time Buddy," at:
  5. Actually, this is not precisely true. The Earth wobbles like a decelerating top and completes one cycle in about 25,765 years. The interval of time is called a "Great Year" or "Platonic Year." This motion is called "precession of the equinoxes:"  As a result, the star to which the North Pole points changes down through the millennia. More details

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Site navigation: Home pageGeneral religious info > here

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Copyright © 2000 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-MAY-28
Latest update: 2015-JUN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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