International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice Date in the current year: June 21, 2024

International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice The International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice was added to the list of the United Nations international days in 2019. It is celebrated on June 21 (the day of the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere) to highlight the importance of the solstice in the culture of many indigenous peoples and to encourage cultural exchange.

A solstice is an astronomical event occurring when the Sun appears to reach its most northerly or southerly excursion relative to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere. This term can also be used to refer to the day when this event occurs. The summer solstice occurs around June 21 in the northern hemisphere and around December 21 in the southern hemisphere; vice versa for the winter solstice.

The days of the winter and summer solstice have a special importance in many cultures because they are connected with seasons. In some areas, they are considered the beginning of a new season; in others, they are considered to be center points. No wonder that many cultures have holidays which have arisen around the summer and/or winter solstice.

For example, the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere (more specifically in northern Europe) is commonly known as Midsummer. In some countries, its celebration has shifted from June 20/21 to June 24 since it’s the feast day of St John the Baptist. This is a case where a pagan festival was adapted into a Christian holiday because the Christian Church found this easier than just try to stamp it out.

The celebration of the summer solstice has different names in different languages: Jaanipäev in Estonia, Ukon juhla or Juhnannus in Finland, Līgo Day and Jāņi Day in Latvia, Midsommar in Sweden, Ivana Kupala (Kupala Night) in eastern Slavic cultures, etc. Interestingly, Kupala Night occurs on July 6-7 on the Gregorian calendar, which corresponds to June 23-24 in the Julian calendar, which is still used by many Orthodox Churches.

Winter solstice celebrations occurring on the same day in the southern hemisphere are much less known to the general public than Midsummer. For many indigenous peoples of South America, for instance, the day of the June solstice is the first day of the new year, which they celebrate with various rituals.

For example, indigenous peoples throughout the Andes still celebrate Inti Raymi, an ancient religious ceremony that originated in the Inca Empire in honor of the god Inti. Since 1944, a reenactment of the ceremony has been held annually in Sacsayhuamán, Peru. It occurs on June 24, coinciding with the feast of Saint John the Baptist.

The Mapuche have a similar celebration named We Tripantu or Wiñoy Tripantu, and in some parts of South America it is known as Willkakuti or Yasitata Guasú. In Bolivia, Willkakuti (Andean-Amazonic New Year) has even been celebrated as a public holiday, despite opposition from some Christian groups.

The International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice was initiated by Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru to draw public attention to solstice celebrations that are much less known to the general public than, say, Midsummer or Kupala Night. This international day is dedicated to all June solstice celebrations across the world. It is designed to highlight the importance of all cultures and demonstrate that different cultures have more in common than we might think, but at the same time, each culture is distinctive and unique.

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International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice, UN observance, June solstice, Midsummer, We Tripantu, Inti Raymi, Willkakuti, Yasitata