The first day of summer – also called midsummer – has long been recognised and often celebrated by many cultures around the world. The ancient Egyptians, for example, built the Great Pyramids so that the sun, when viewed from the Sphinx sets precisely between two of the pyramids on the summer solstice. Recently, archaeologists discovered the remains of an astronomical observatory in a long-buried city in Guatemala in which the buildings were designed to align with the sun during the solstice. And perhaps most famously, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom has been associated with the winter and summer solstices for about 5,000 years.
Stonehenge is a monument in Wiltshire, England. It is one of the most famous sights in the world consisting of the remains of a ring of standing stones built sometime around 2500 BC, and it is a true reflection of prehistoric times. It is not known exactly who built Stonehenge but it is estimated that the builders needed to spend at least 33,000,000 hours to complete their work on it.
About 10 years ago, while I was living in the London, I traveled to Stonehenge to witness the first rays of sunlight on the summer solstice. Standing in a grassy field in the Wiltshire countryside, Stonehenge is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But getting there is easy – from London Waterloo station, it took me an hour an 24 minutes to get to Salisbury, followed by a short ride from the Salisbury train station. The bus is located right outside the station and it comes every 30 minutes to one hour (depending on the season). If you are in London, you could also take one of the tours available to visit Stonehenge.
Observers in the centre of the standing stones can watch the summer solstice sunrise over the Heel Stone, which stands just outside the main ring of Stonehenge. Myself, and some 20,000 other enthusiastic people, made our way to Stonehenge on June 21 to gather, celebrate, play drums, and sit around fire pits all night, while we waited for the sun to rise. I can’t describe the exhilaration that buzzed through the air on that night. The closer we got to sunrise, the more excited people got. The drumming increased, and so did the cheers. When the first ray of sunlight shot over the horizon, the crowd went insane. Witnessing the summer solstice is something everyone should take the chance to do at least once in a lifetime, and it is definitely something I am happy to get to check off on my “Lifetime Bucket List“.
Take note that although today was the summer solstice where I am, in the Northern Hemisphere, I grew up with the opposite being true. It occurs sometime between around June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere, and December 21 in the Summer Hemisphere. So, to all our family and friends in South Africa and Australia, today would be your winter solstice.
Justin and I will not be going on honeymoon yet, unfortunately instead we will have to work summer jobs while our school is closed for two months. We will only get to go on honeymoon in 2014, but that’s okay because we live in a beautiful coastal city, so we can do plenty fun beach days, hikes, and outdoor activities!
Enjoy the longest day of the year!
Make the most of it!!