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Celebrating the summer solstice with Black history

Jasmin K. Williams | 6/20/2013, noon | Updated on 6/25/2013, 2:18 p.m.
June 21 is the summer solstice. This major celestial event marks the first, official day of summer. But just what ...
Stonehenge thegarethwiscombe photo

The most famous summer solstice celebrations in the world happen at Stonehenge, the remains of a prehistoric but architechturally sophisticated monument built by the Neolithic people in Wiltshire, England, and one of the most famous structures in the world. Archeologists believe the ring of standing stones was built sometime between 3000 B.C. and 2000 B.C. The structure consists of two different types of stones, bluestones and sarsens, the largest of which is estimated to weigh 40 tons.

Though its definitive purpose remains somewhat of a mystery, Stonehenge has been long revered as a spiritual place. It appears to have been constructed in a way to directly align itself with the summer solstice. Each year, on the day of the summer solstice, thousands of solstice enthusiasts descend on this ancient and mysterious monument to watch the sunrise.

Summertime fun facts

Bonfires were built on the first day of summer to boost the sun’s energy and keep evil spirits away.

The Druids called the solstice the wedding of heaven and Earth, resulting in the popularity of June weddings for good luck.

The word “honeymoon” is associated with summer. Pagans called the first moon of summer a honeymoon and drank fermented honey as part of wedding celebrations.

In ancient China, the summer solstice was a celebration of the Earth and “yin,” or female energy.

Summer school vacations were the brainchild of educator Horace Mann in 1840. Before the early 19th century, there were no such breaks. These came later to coincide with planting and harvesting.

The Eiffel Tower in France grows as much as six inches in the summer because the iron expands in the summer heat.

July is National Ice Cream Month because most of the sweet treat is consumed in the United States during the month of July.

Whatever you choose to do this summer, make it a happy, health and safe one. Don’t forget to enjoy a good book and look for the Amsterdam News in your classroom on Thursday, Sept. 12!

This Week in Black History

June 17, 1862: Congress authorizes President Abraham Lincoln to begin accepting Black soldiers in the Union Army.

June 18, 1991: Wellington Webb is the first Black elected as mayor of Denver, Colo.

June 19, 1865: Though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, slavery continued in Texas until June 19, 1865, when word reached Galveston, Texas, that all slaves were free, sparking the yearly celebration known as Juneteenth.

June 20, 1911: The NAACP is incorporated in New York.

June 21, 1832: Happy birthday to Joseph Haynes Rainey, the first Black representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.