Summer Solstice. This momentous event, a noted day for planet Earth and its relationship with the sun, usually occurs around June 20-21 every year. It is one of two solstices, which simply means the day when the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines. For you non-science lovers, the day the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, giving us the day of the year with the longest period of daylight. This year, the occasion fell on June 20th, a day earlier than it has fallen in the past few years, as a result of 2012 being a leap year.
Before I continue, check out this picture, which captures the essence of this bi-annual occurrence: the moment the sun aligns over the Solstice Heel Stone at Stonehenge Aotearoa.
This visual beauty has been celebrated through centuries, in many ways by cultures all around the world. Who knew that the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramids so that the sun, when viewed from the Sphinx, sets exactly between two of the Pyramids on the summer solstice? They are one of many ancient cultures to have designed their most prominent structures to align with the sun during the solstices. For the people of the past, the solstice was a reminder that a turning point in the growing season had been reached, which is one of many mystical meanings and supernatural significance given to recognized natural alignments.
As the world and culture of it evolves, so has the significance. It is in some cultures, like Scandinavia and Latvia, one of the most celebrated holidays aside from Christmas, and in others the motivation behind various rituals, festivals, and parades. I had the honor of getting to experience firsthand the Summer Solstice Parade and Festival this past weekend in Santa Barbara, CA. Everything about the day coincided perfectly with this year’s theme: Fantasy. Whether it was watching the bright elaborately-decorated parade floats go by or getting your face painted (let’s be honest…you never get too old for it), you were surrounded by this light-hearted, eclectic environment, which seemed very appropriate for the welcoming of summer.
The Summer Solstice parade began in 1974, and later combined with the Summer Solstice Music Festival to give you a fun, free-spirited, creative celebration of life through art. This event is the largest arts event in Santa Barbara and has evolved into an original display of floats, giant puppets, whimsical costumes, and more than 1, 000 parade participants of all ethnic and economic backgrounds, as well as over 100, 000 spectators from around the world. Following the parade, you can continue the fun down at Alameda Park, where the beautiful floats are on display. You can lend your ears to live world music and enjoy the food, vendors, and crafts on display.
So next time around, don’t forget to look out for the solstice. Or for the opportunity to to take part in the celebration of life through art that will continue and grow for many years to come.
tagged as: Summer Solstice. solstice. Summer Solstice Parade and festival. music. eclectic. float. parade. Invisible Children. fantasy. sun. summer. Solstice Heel Stone. Stonehenge.