According to the Washington Post, at 7:09 p.m. (EDT) today the sun will be shining directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer while the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt toward the sun. For the Northern Hemisphere, this marks the longest day of the year and the official beginning to summer.
Here's a neat chart from the Washington Post that shows the relationship between latitude, sun angle, and day length:
Across the world cities of similar latitude like Tokyo and Beijing have similar amounts of sunlight, while across the Atlantic cities like London have more than 16 hours of sunlight. This chart from the Washington Post shows the various international hours of sunlight:
For the full article from the Washington Post click here.
The origin of the word "solstice" derives from the combination of Latin words "sol" meaning sun and "stice" to stand still.
There are many celebrations and ceremonies associated with the summer solstice. This article by the Shaman's Well explores quite a few. Here were my favorite three from the article:
2) Doing a Fire ceremony that honors the gift of Fire. Fire partakes of the Sun and is considered the Sun within the Earth.
4) Making a Prayer Stick or Prayer Tree upon which you place specific prayers for those who need healing, for the return to peace where there is no peace, for abundance in areas of the world where there is now poverty and scarcity.
6) Creating a Circle that sends healing love to others round the Earth. Circling together, find a way consciously to send your blessings and your love in such a way that you see "what you are sending" as encircling the globe of Earth.
Whether it's a barbecue or a prayer stick, today is a beautiful day to celebrate and give thanks for where you are and the power that we receive from the sun. It is also a day of transformation as we move into the new luxurious season of summer. So, take a moment upon reading this blog and decide what transformation means to you for the summer solstice. While thinking I suggest you sit in a comfortable cross-legged position or sukasana with palms facing up in a receptive manner and connect the pointer and thumb finger in chin mudra. Sit here with your eyes close for about 5-10 minutes and meditate upon the transformation and personal significance of this 2012 summer solstice.