In our man-made world of time, every hour is 60 minutes, every day 24 hours, every year 365 day -- except for Leap Year, which is 366 days. Yet, every other species and life itself runs on a whole different system of time, which is reckoned by the movements of the sun, moon, and stars.
When I studied sundials, for example, I found that the hours of the day are different lengths. The number of minutes it takes for the sun to move a certain distance is greater in the morning and evening, and lesser at midday. But it all averages out over 24 hours to 60 minutes in what we call an hour. And each of those hours has a different quality--morning hours feel different than evening hours, each has a different quality of life and is in a different part of the cycle of the day.
Likewise with the year. At the Spring Equinox, for example, life is leaping into existence, whereas at the Autumn Equinox, life is decaying and returning to the Earth. At both points, day and night are equal, but they are very different in their life function. Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice are even more widely different--one marks the point of deepest darkness, after which light will return; the other marks the point of greatest light, after which darkness with return.
In pre-industrial times, celebrating the seasons marked time and united communities around particular activities that contributed to sustaining their lives. It was a time of reconnection in agricultural communities where neighbors often lived far apart.
For me, in the twenty-first century, honoring seasonal changes with a celebration is a way to periodically tune in with the time system of nature and honor that nature is the source of everything that sustains the material aspect of my life.
Summer Solstice is the time when the sun is at it's highest in the sky, when it is at it's full power. It really is the time to celebrate the sun and all it gives to us. Without the sun, there would be no life on Earth. We humans would not exist. It's something to be thankful for. It's also a time to look forward to the shorter days and cooler temperatures that are coming in the second half of the year.
I think the best celebration for Summer Solstice is a picnic outdoors, eating summer foods like tomatoes and watermelons and ice cream. In ancient times people had great feasts and danced and sang Summer Solstice carols.
I am reviving this holiday!
Let's celebrate the benefits of sunshine, how it supports our lives, and how we can use it for good.