Celebrating the Summer Solstice – June 21, 2011

Summer SolsticeThe longest day and shortest night of the year is almost here. The summer solstice, or Midsummer, occurs June 21 and marks the point at which daylight is longest (north of the equator, that is) just before the nights begin gradually lengthening again.

But if you think all of that sunlight means you won’t have a reason to pull out your LED flashlight, think again! With a few friends and an LED lantern or flashlight, you can put a high-tech spin on this ancient holiday. Here’s a look at what the summer solstice is and how you can observe it at home or while camping.

Origins of Midsummer

For centuries, civilizations around the world have been awed by the sun’s power and have marked its waxing and waning throughout the year with a number of festivals. Midsummer – also known as Litha or St. John’s Day – was a celebration of the sun at its pinnacle of strength, as well as an acknowledgement of its impeding decline as summer gives way to fall and winter.

Because the summer solstice festival centered on the sun, fire played an important symbolic role in many traditions. People lit bonfires and sunwheels – great balls of straw that were set on fire and rolled downhill into a river – not only to honor the sun’s power but to help bolster its energy during its waning period.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

For flashlight junkies, the summer solstice has a slightly different significance. While pagans traditionally mourned the loss of daylight and eagerly awaited its return, flashaholics relish the coming increase in “flashlight hours,” which offers them more opportunities to break out their LED flashlights and lanterns. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is actually the shortest day of the year and is known among some crowds as Flashlight Day – a holiday celebrated in the U.S. on Dec. 21.)

If you’re a flashlight junkie who loves to bust out an LED flashlight at every opportunity, or if you’re just interested in tapping into the ancient custom of observing the summer solstice, there are many different ways to join the fun. While bonfires are traditional, you can substitute an LED lantern to provide a ring of light for your nighttime celebration. Instead of the customary bonfire jumping, place your LED lantern on the ground and lead your group in leaping over it, one by one, to ensure good luck for the coming year. Another idea is to get a group of friends together and head outside with your LED flashlights for a game of flashlight tag.

[Photo by: Lorna Phillips]

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