June solstice brings out the fools in all of us

By Judy Bluhm, Foothills Focus Guest Columnist

In case you are wondering if summer is here yet, fear not, because we have just experienced the summer solstice.

All over the world, the June solstice is the exact instant of time when the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer. It is the longest day of the year (usually not the hottest—except for the inferno in Arizona). Strangely, it causes the Arctic Circle to have 24 hours of continuous daylight, followed by 24 hours of night. What a world!

The summer solstice is iconic—a day with time-honored history rife with pagan celebrations and all things Stonehenge. Well, this summer solstice did get a number of parties going full steam, in spite of a pandemic, but at least no one was pushed off pyramids like the Mayans did.

Historians like to point to Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in Wilshire, England, as evidence that ancient humans used the June solstice as a method to organize their calendars. Some believe the unique configuration of stones was erected around 2500 B.C. to establish the date of the summer solstice, which would be the starting point of the summer.

In China, the summer solstice was celebrated to honor the Earth, femininity and the “yin” forces. According to Chinese tradition, the shortest shadow is found on the day of the summer solstice. In North America, Native American tribes held ritual dances to honor the sun. Today in northern Europe and Scandinavian countries, they hold midnight sun festivals and feasts. It seems people around the world like to celebrate the “longest day of summer.”

In Scandinavia, celebrations are punctuated by eating strawberries, which represent all things summer. Native Americans would traditionally paint their bodies with the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light) and black (night). In Sweden and Finland, throngs of people dance around Maypoles. Throughout Europe and America, bonfires are lit and music festivals and all-night parties are common. This year, many of those celebrations were canceled. Not so fun wearing a facemask.

There were people all over Arizona having summer solstice “social distancing” parties. You know, sit 6 feet apart on a patio, having a drink, while you wave at your friends. It was a little too warm for me to feel festive. Of course, there are quite a few folks (nuts) in Phoenix who planned “Longest Day” celebrations, which involved running through sprinklers, jumping in fountains and pools (well, it is was 110 degrees) and even riding the Light Rail naked. Yes, I said naked, which might be illegal (and stupid), plus downright dangerous. Yikes, do not sit on a hot metal seat without your knickers on! Can heat make you go bonkers?

The longest day of the year has already passed! It’s sort of sad, because every day gets shorter, and pretty soon we will have to do our Christmas shopping. Time flies. Unless you are still in semi-quarantine. This week, celebrate the long days of summer with a big bowl of strawberries and maybe run through a sprinkler. No bonfires please.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a comment or a story? Email Bluhm at judy@judybluhm.com.