Summer Solstice Celebrations

The summer solstice is the point at which the Earth's northern hemisphere is tilted the furthest toward the sun, usually (but not always) on June 21st, as it is this year. The sun is at the highest point for us, as shown in this analemma. The celebration of the solstice, or Midsummer has taken place since men first noticed the point of the year with the most daylight. In some countries, the pagan celebrations of old were replaced by a feast day for St. John the Baptist on June 24th, but many of the ancient solstice rituals remain.

Wiccans call this day Litha, or sometimes by the Druidic name Alban Heruin, or "the Light of the Shore". To this day, Neo-Druid ceremonies take place at Stonehenge near Salisbury, England.
More solstice celebrations from all over, after the jump.

In Finland, the summer solstice was called Ukon juhla in honor of the god Ukko before the country was Christianized in the 14th century. Now midsummer is known as Juhannus, which means St. John's Day. Helsinki celebrates with a street festival. There is always much drinking and merrymaking.

In Poland, midsummer is called Noc Świętojańska and is celebrated on June 23rd. People dress like pirates and girls throw flower wreaths into the sea. More pictures here.

In Denmark, St. John's Day is called Sankt Hans Aften. It is a lighthearted holiday, a midsummer excuse for a huge bonfire and party.
435_Skt hansaften.jpg

Midsummers Day, or Sanziene in Romania involves rituals (all in fun) to predict who your future spouse will be. Of course, these rituals are supposed to be performed by those not yet married. In some areas, young women perform the Wicked Fairies Dance for the celebration of Dragaica.

In Alaska, midsummer means sunlight at midnight! This multiple-exposure photograph shows how the sun skips along the horizon during the night near the Arctic Circle. Midsummer is celebrated in different ways all over the state, but understandably, the parties go later in the northermost communities.

The Fremont Arts Council in Seattle holds an annual Summer Solstice Parade and Pageant, billed as "An unparalleled demonstration of free speech, creativity, art and community." Last year's parade included nude bicyclists. Red Kev has pictures. (Warning: nude bicyclists) More parade pictures here.

You'll find more ways people celebrate the summer Midsummer at Wikipedia. Happy Midsummer to you!

Afternoon Map
8 City Maps Rendered in the Styles of Famous Artists

Vincent van Gogh once famously said, "I dream my painting and I paint my dream." If at some point in his career he had dreamed up a map of Amsterdam, where he lived and derived much of his inspiration from, it may have looked something like the one below.

In a blog post from March, Credit Card Compare selected eight cities around the world and illustrated what their maps might look like if they had been created by the famous artists who have roots there.

The Andy Warhol-inspired map of New York City, for instance, is awash with primary colors, and the icons representing notable landmarks are rendered in his famous Pop Art style. Although Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, he spent much of his career working in the Big Apple at his studio, dubbed "The Factory."

Another iconic and irreverent artist, Banksy, is the inspiration behind London's map. Considering that the public doesn't know Banksy's true identity, he remains something of an enigma. His street art, however, is recognizable around the world and commands exorbitant prices at auction. In an ode to urban art, clouds of spray paint and icons that are a bit rough around the edges adorn this map of England's capital.

For more art-inspired city maps, scroll through the photos below.

[h/t Credit Card Compare]

China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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