You don’t feel dizzy. You don’t see a line moving. Yet the earth moves in several ways. It turns so that we have day and night. It also orbits (circles around) the sun once a year.
In June the north axis of the earth tilts toward the sun. (Picture a line through the center of the earth, from “top” to “bottom.”) On the day the “top” of that axis is most directly in line with the sun, we have more minutes of sunlight than any other day of the year. Officially we call it the first day of summer. This year, 2006, it happens on June 21 at 12:26 Universal Time (UT).
This day is also called the Summer Solstice. Solstice comes from Latin words. Sol means sun, and sistit means stands. The sun is so high in the sky this time of year that it looks like it’s standing still.
Once you begin your vacation from school, it’s easy to let the longest day of the year blend into all the other days. This year, think about planning an extra celebration for June 21. As you have fun, praise God for placing the sun in the heavens and the earth in orbit in such a fascinating way.
Consider celbrating Summer Solstice, or any summer day, with this sunrise shake:
1/2 cup diced pineapple
1/2 cup sunrise-colored fruit—cantaloupe, apricots, peaches, or papaya
1 cup vanilla or orange-colored fruit yogurt
(save the lid for a second project)
1/2 cup orange juice
4 ice cubes
In a blender combine the pineapple, orange-colored fruit, banana, yogurt, orange juice, and ice cubes. (Ask a grown-up to help you.) Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses. Serves 2. Double the ingredients to share with more people.
Gather art supplies such as oil pastel crayons, colored pencils, or wax crayons and a large sheet of paper. Go to a place where you can watch the sunset. Color in the sunset shades as you watch them appear in the sky.
Figure It Out
Use this formula to find out exactly what hour summer begins for you this year. (Ask an adult what time zone you live in.)
Summer begins at 12:26 Universal Time, so subtract…
5 hours for Eastern Daylight Time
6 hours for Central Daylight Time
7 hours for Mountain Daylight Time
8 hours for Pacific Daylight Time
9 hours for Alaska Daylight Time
To see official times for other seasons from 2005 to 2020, visit www.crh.noaa.gov/ind/seasons.txt.
- In medieval times the Summer Solstice was called Midsummer. It was the time between planting and harvesting. Because it came in the middle of these two activities, people had time to celebrate this day.
- This break from field work also made it a good time for young couples to get married. June weddings are still popular. Ask an adult if he or she got married in June and why or why not.
- The summer moon that appears at this time in June was called the honey moon. It was the time to collect honey from the bee hives. Later it became attached to the wedding celebration. The trip after a wedding is not called “honeymoon” because the bride and groom call each other sweet names like “Honey.”
- The famous play writer William Shakespeare wrote a play called A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In Shakespeare’s day people believed dreams held a magic power on the Summer Solstice
- The southern hemisphere (half) of the earth has the opposite sun exposure. So people there have the Winter Solstice when we are having our Summer Solstice. Our longest day is their shortest day, and our shortest day is their longest day.
Make a sun catcher for your window. You’ll need the following materials:
- waxed paper
- white school glue
- blue and green food coloring
- yogurt container lid
- watercolor paint brush
- Squeeze two puddles of glue onto the waxed paper.
- Drop blue coloring into one puddle and green into the second puddle.
- Mix the colors in each puddle with a toothpick.
- Using the picture of the earth on this page as a guide, paint green land areas onto your lid. Rinse out your brush and paint the water areas blue.
Tips: Don’t leave any gaps between the blue and green areas. It’s okay if your areas aren’t perfect. The glue will shift a bit while drying, so it will change anyway.
- Allow to dry overnight.
- Pop the glue out of the lid. Poke a hole in the top. Thread the string through it and tie at the top to make a loop for hanging. The underside may still be damp, so allow it to dry for a few more hours.
- Hand it in a window to catch the sunlight.
Early Christians celebrated Jon the Baptist’s birthday during the Summer Solstice. In the Roman Empire that day was June 24. They recognized that the days became shorter after the Summer Solstice. It helped them focus on what John said about Jesus: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (see John 3:30).
John the Baptist told us something else. He said if a person has two tunics, he should give away one of them. Or if she has extra food, she should share it with people who don’t have any (Luke 3:11).
Giving things away is fun. Sharing spreads joy. Add to your fun this month by giving away something. Check out all that you have. Do you have two of anything? Give one away in honor of John the Baptist. May you experience the happiness of a sunny smile in return.