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!

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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YouTube // Deep Look
These Glowing Worms Mimic Shining Stars
YouTube // Deep Look
YouTube // Deep Look

The glow worms of New Zealand's Waitomo caves produce light, mimicking the starry night sky. Using sticky goop, they catch moths and other flying creatures unfortunate enough to flutter into the "starry" cavern. Beautiful and icky in equal parts, this Deep Look video takes you inside the cave, and up close with these worms. Enjoy:

There's also a nice write-up with animated GIFs if you're not in the mood for video. Want more glow worms? Check out this beautiful timelapse in a similar cave, or our list of 19 Places You Won't Believe Exist topped by—you guessed it—New Zealand's Glowworm Caves!


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