June 21 was the summer solstice, the day of the year with the longest period of daylight. The summer solstice happens when the Earth’s axis is tilted furthest towards the Sun. On this day, the UK enjoys roughly 16.5 hours of daylight. Aside from being an important astronomical event, the summer solstice marks the beginning of summer.
The most iconic place in Britain to celebrate the summer solstice is Stonehenge, in county Wiltshire. Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument consisting of a circular arrangement of megalithic standing stones. Archaeologists believe it was an important religious site during the Neolithic period. Since the stone circle seems designed to align with the movements of the Sun, Stonehenge probably was an ancient observatory and served as a calendar.
Over the course of the 20th century, many people rediscovered this feature of Stonehenge and began gathering at the site during the summer solstice. Originally, the participants were individuals interested in ancient rituals and spirituality, but the celebration has ballooned over the years.
This year, some 8,000 people gathered at Stonehenge to watch the Sun rise. It was a very peculiar crowd that included neo-druids, spiritual groups, hippies, locals and tourists. Many wore robes, floral headwear and colourful outfits. Some sang, some played pan pipes, others meditated or celebrated rituals, others still hugged and kissed the ancient stones. This New Age event was broadcast live to some 154,000 people around the world by the English Heritage Trust.
1) When does your summer start? When school ends? When you pack your bags for a holiday? Write about your summer hopes and expectations.
2) Is there an ancient structure you visited that particularly impressed you? What was it, and what were your thoughts and feelings?
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)