The year's longest day arrives early in 2012 because this is a leap year. It's time to eat drink and be merry. Rock the solstice with your pagan and/or wiccan buddies because, despite the 30+ degree temps, winter is on its way!
The summer solstice has long been recognized and often celebrated by many cultures around the world.
The ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramids so that the sun, when viewed from the Sphinx, sets precisely between two of the Pyramids on the summer solstice.
The Inca of South America celebrated the corresponding winter solstice with a ceremony called Inti Raymi, which included food offerings and sacrifices of animals, and maybe even people.
Recently, archaeologists discovered the remains of an astronomical observatory in a long-buried Maya city in Guatemala in which the buildings were designed to align with the sun during the solstices. During such times, the city's populace gathered at the observatory to watch as their king appeared to command the heavens.
And perhaps most famously, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom has been associated with the winter and summer solstices for about 5,000 years.
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