Summertime, and the living is easy, as the song lyric tells us.
The living is not easy, of course, for many, regardless of the season. But summer does capture our fancies as a more laid-back time, a season when work routines may slow a bit, longer days and warm temperatures have us exercising, relaxing, or doing chores outside well into the evening. If you have a 9-to-5 job, you can fit in almost four hours of post-work daylight activity.
And we get more daylight today than any other day of the year. In the popular imagination, the beginning of summer may be marked by Memorial Day, or the last day of school or the day your favorite swimming pool opens. For meteorologists, it was a few weeks ago at the beginning of June. But officially, summer begins with the summer solstice, which in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States comes this year as most of us sleep, at 12:24 a.m. Wednesday.
Durham loves a party, so perhaps it’s a bit odd that there’s no particular revelry attached to the season’s commencement here. We could hark back to ancient Greece, for example, when the summer solstice marked the first day of the year. “Several festivals were held around this time,” notes the website history.com. “The summer solstice also marked the one-month countdown to the opening of the Olympic games.”
Perhaps we do take a cue from the Vikings, with our General Assembly in its home stretch and the U.S. Supreme Court in the final weeks of its term. For the Vikings, and for many cultures, the solstice was seen as midsummer. It was, again according to history.com, “a crucial time of year for the Nordic seafarers, who would meet to discuss legal matters and resolve disputes around the summer solstice.”
And then there were the Druids, Celtic high priests who “likely held ritual celebrations during midsummer.” The most famous Druid site, Stonehenge, may or may not have been the site of many of those, but it is widely believed that the imposing site was built with the solstice in mind. Only on this day, the rays of the rising sun reach the middle stones of the stone circle erected around 2500 BCE.
So whether you revel in these long, hot and often humid days and the pleasures of summer life, or whether you are already longing for cooler days with the kids back in school, summer is upon us. In an area rife with parks and hiking trails, outdoor seating proliferating at our bars, restaurants and craft breweries, we recommend embracing the season.