The Summer Solstice Google Doodle.
(photo credit: GOOGLE)
The summer solstice is here, and with that Israeli children are celebrating the last day of school and the start of the summer vacation.
To mark the start of the summer, Friday's Google Doodle is nothing short of cute, with a smiling Earth illustration looking up at the sun shining on a palm tree paradise. The words Google are written in space with the second 'O' making up the animated image.
The Summer Solstice, June 21, is the longest day of the year because the Earth's axis "is tilted most closely toward the sun," National Geographic explains. It's this tilt in the Earth's axis that leads to the seasons.
The official summer season in Israel begins on June 21 and will end on September 23.
In the southern hemisphere, June 21 is considered the shortest day of the year and marks the beginning of winter. For those south of the equator, the summer solstice is December 21.
The summer solstice is celebrated in the United Kingdom at Stonehenge, the famous prehistoric monument that consists of a ring of standing stones, which, according to History.com, is "aligned with the direction of the sunrise on the summer solstice."
Every year, thousands of people gather at the Neolithic monument to celebrate and mark the start of the Summer.
Interestingly, Christian churches believe that the summer solstice marks the birth of John the Baptist, which is officially commemorated on June 24 as St. John’s Day.
In Fairbanks, Alaska, a traditional baseball game has taken place on the night of the summer solstice for the last 100 years.
In Northern Europe, the summer solstice is a Scandinavian holiday. A festival takes place for three days, past midnight, in Iceland and other Nordic countries as the sun doesn't set.
According to a History.com article, in ancient Egypt the summer solstice was associated with the rise of the Nile River.
"Its observance may have helped to predict annual flooding," the article explains.
Moreover, in ancient Greece, the Summer Solstice would mark the "one-month countdown" to the Olympic Games, it adds.
The setting for the well-known comedic play by William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Nights Dream
, is also believed to have been on the eve of the summer solstice, hence the name. For this reason, a production of the play is also put on during summer solstice festivals across the northern hemisphere.
In ancient pagan cultures, several festivities and celebrations would also take place, and this included the lighting of bonfires to honor the power and strength of the sun.
In Austria, fires were lit on mountain tops as part of the summer solstice traditions, and this still takes place today.
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