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Summer solstice celebrations are underway around the globe

The summer solstice is an astronomical event each June that marks the official start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
Summer solstice celebrations are underway around the globe
Posted at 11:01 AM, Jun 21, 2023

From Stonehenge to midnight baseball, the eagerly anticipated summer solstice has arrived, as communities across the globe come together to celebrate the sun.

The summer solstice is an astronomical event that occurs every June. It marks the official onset of summer in the Northern Hemisphere as Earth's axial tilt is at its maximum, with the North Pole pointing directly toward the sun. As a result, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, bringing us the longest and brightest day of the year.

The celestial phenomenon has been celebrated by various cultures throughout history and is traditionally viewed as a time of renewal, fertility and abundance, as cities and towns burst into life with dazzling decorations. Here are some ways people around the globe are coming together to revel in the longest day of the year.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Druids and pagans have gathered at Stonehenge on the same morning every year for a millennium to welcome the official beginning of summer, and this year thousands of visitors are flocking to southern England to share their devotion to the sun.

At dawn Wednesday, revelers adorned in extravagant costumes — and even antlers — greeted the rising sun as it emerged behind what is known as the Heel Stone, sending rays of gleaming light into the heart of the prehistoric site. 

In addition to the estimated 8,000 people who made the pilgrimage to the monuments, English Heritage estimated another 154,000 people tuned in from around the world to catch a glimpse of the event on the charity's livestream.

Midnight baseball in Alaska

Alaska's Midnight Sun Baseball Game in Fairbanks has been a summer solstice tradition for over 100 years. Beginning in 1906 as part of a bar bet between two opposing clubs, teams have held a late-night game on June 21 each year. Due to its close proximity to the Arctic Circle, the sun remains visible for 24 hours straight, meaning there's no need for artificial stadium lighting. 

The game draws large crowds of spectators — sunglasses in hand — to witness this extraordinary sporting event that's become a symbol of the Alaskan summer and a celebration of the region's unique phenomenon, the midnight sun.

This year, the Alaska Goldpanners will host the Michigan Monarchs with first pitch slated for 10 p.m. 

Norway's Slinningsbalet solstice bonfire

Bonfires and s'mores are an American summer staple. But Norwegians take things to the next level during the summer solstice.

Slinningsbalet is a massive bonfire that's lit each June in Alesund, Norway, attracting both locals and visitors to witness the spectacular Viking tradition. It's one of the tallest bonfires in the world and even held the world record in 2016 when the wood structure stood more than 155 feet tall.

The event is part of the midsummer celebrations that honor the birth of John the Baptist, a Judaean preacher from the early first century AD. The traditional flaming tower is built on a small island on the country's west coast, where many gather to watch as it burns and crumbles into the harbor. It's believed to signal the sinking flame of the sun, since this is the time of year when the sun begins to retreat in the region.

Sweden's midsummer maypole

The Swedish maypole is a traditional symbol of celebration of midsummer activities, taking place around the summer solstice in late June.

In the middle ages, Swedes began raising a midsummer pole known as the maypole. Typically a tall wooden pole embellished with bright flowers, greenery, and colorful ribbons, it's erected in outdoor spaces, serving as a centerpiece for various activities.

Today, midsummer is about celebrating the future that lies ahead, as people gather around in traditional folk costumes and flower crowns, dancing and singing songs as a way to welcome the arrival of long days and the summer season.

Whether you want to dance around a flower-decorated pole in Sweden or catch a midnight baseball game in Alaska, there are plenty of ways to welcome the coming of summer. And while many of us probably can't make it to these distant celebrations around the world, why not begin your own unique summer solstice tradition that can be carried on for years to come?

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