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International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice | 21 June

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Murtaza Ahmad

A solstice, a word derived from the Latin words ‘sol’ meaning ‘sun’ and ‘sistere’ meaning ‘to stand still,’ is a moment of awe-inspiring beauty. It marks the point at which the Sun’s apparent path ‘stands still’ at its northernmost or southernmost limit before reversing direction. This universal phenomenon occurs when the Sun reaches its most northerly or southerly day arc relative to the Equator. As a result, there are two solstices that take place annually: around June 21, known as the ‘Summer Solstice,’ marking the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, and around December 21, known as the ‘Winter Solstice,’ marking the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year.

Conversely, an equinox, derived from the Latin words’ equinoctial,’ from ‘aequus’, meaning ‘equal’, and ‘nox’, meaning ‘night,’ signifies the moment when the centre of the visible Sun is directly above the Equator. This event occurs twice each year, around March 20, known as the ‘Spring Equinox,’ which denotes the beginning of spring in most cultures, and around September 23, known as the ‘Autumnal Equinox,’ marking the commencement of autumn. The equinoxes are unique as they are the only times when the solar terminator, the line that separates the illuminated day side and the dark night side of a celestial body, is perpendicular to the Equator, leading to approximately equal durations of daytime and nighttime.

The solstices and equinoxes are intricately linked with the changing of seasons, agricultural harvests, and livelihoods. This diversity is reflected in the numerous cultures that celebrate combinations of these events, leading to the emergence of various holidays associated with the solstices, the equinoxes, and the intermediate points between them. This rich tapestry of celebrations is a testament to the diversity and creativity of human culture.

Culture encompasses a wide array of elements that shape society, including traditions, beliefs, and ways of life. As our societies become increasingly diverse, promoting harmonious interaction between different cultural identities becomes essential. Cultural diversity, with its rich tapestry of traditions and beliefs, should be acknowledged and celebrated as part of humanity’s collective heritage, benefiting both present and future generations.

Recognizing the significance of solstices and equinoxes in symbolizing the fertility of the land, agricultural traditions, and cultural heritage spanning centuries, the General Assembly of the United Nations has acknowledged the celebration of these events as a representation of the unity of cultural heritage and long-standing traditions. Moreover, these celebrations play a crucial role in fostering mutual respect, peace, and good-neighborliness among peoples. By participating in these celebrations, we not only honor our diverse cultural heritage but also contribute to a more peaceful and harmonious world. Consequently, the General Assembly has designated June 21 as the International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice.

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