Happy Summer Solstice 2014!
Yes, summer is now well and truly here.
At Chaa Creek, celebrating the summer solstice is part of a local tradition going back thousands of years. Long before western telescopes came into use, the ancient Maya were busily recording the solstices with astounding accuracy and marking the exact day with ritual celebrations.
The Summer Solstice, widely considered to be the first day of summer, falls on June 21 in the northern hemisphere, making it the longest day of the year.
And, of course, June 21 in the southern hemisphere is the winter solstice with the shortest day of the year.
Many cultures throughout history have marked and celebrated the solstices, but the ancient Maya; the most accomplished astronomers of ancient time, pinpointed it and other cosmic events with astounding accuracy and precisely charted the positions of planets and other celestial bodies well into the future.
So the Maya priestly astronomers working out of Xunantunich and preparing to celebrate the solstice in, say, 314 AD, would have calculated the exact arrangement of celestial bodies and known what the skies above Chaa Creek would look like in 2014. Pretty impressive, when you think about it.
Situated between the huge metropolises of Caracol in Belize and Tikal in neighbouring Guatemala, Chaa Creek was a thriving area with an agricultural base that supported the major urban centres. The solstices and equinoxes would have been important dates for the local population, and it’s easy to picture the crowds thronging around El Castillo at Xunantunich to watch the rituals being performed at the top of that striking pyramid.
Fast-forward centuries later, and much of the surrounding land looks almost exactly the same as it did back then. Chaa Creek still grows much the same foods using traditional methods at the Maya organic farm, and in Belize’s Maya villages the culture and rituals live on.
You can understand why we feel it’s so important to keep ancient Maya traditions alive.
Of course, large crowds will be observing the solstice at Chitzen Itza in Mexico, Stonehenge in England and at many other traditional locations around the world, and we’re happy to join them in celebrating the elegant regularity of cosmic timekeeping.
So here’s wishing everyone a happy summer solstice and an enjoyable longest day of the year!