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Brooklyn, The Summer Solstice is Here!

It's the tipping point where the days start to become shorter and the nights longer. The sun won't set until 8:31pm today.

Today marks the scientific start of the summer, or the summer solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere receives more daylight than any other day of the year.

Thursday, June 20, marks the tipping point at which days start to become shorter and nights longer. The word "solstice" comes from the Latin word "solstitium" "sol" (sun) and "stitium" (still or stopped).

This year, the sun will reach its highest point in the sky today at 4:51pm in New York City, according to the National Weather Service. The sunset will be at 8:31pm. 

The solstice can be a special, even spiritual time to celebrate the start of summer, appreciate the light in one's life — both metaphorical and literal — and set positive intentions for the upcoming season.

Ancient folks noticed that as summer progressed, the sun stopped moving northward in the sky, then begin tracking southward again as summer turned to autumn. Neolithic humans may initially have started to observe the summer solstice as a marker to figure out when to plant and harvest crops.

In Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice corresponded with the rise of the Nile River. According to ancient Greek calendars, the summer solstice marked the start of the New Year. In the days leading up to the summer solstice, the ancient Romans celebrated Vestalia, a religious festival in honor of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. During Vestalia, married women could enter the temple of Vesta and leave offerings to the goddess in exchange for blessings for their families. In ancient China, festivities celebrated Earth, femininity, and the "yin" force.

Before Christianity, ancient Northern and Central European pagans, including Germanic, Celtic and Slavic groups, welcomed the summer solstice, Midsummer, with bonfires. It was thought that bonfires would boost the sun's energy for the rest of the growing season and guarantee a good harvest for the fall. Bonfires also were associated with magic, was thought to be strongest during the summer solstice. It was believed that bonfires could help banish demons and evil spirits and lead maidens to their future husbands.

Native American tribes took part in solstice rituals, some of which are still practiced today. The Sioux, for instance, performed a ceremonial sun dance around a tree while wearing symbolic colors.