In recent weeks in New York City, residents intoxicated by the improving weather and the vastly increased slate of post-pandemic things to do have certainly been acting like it’s summer. However, the official first day of summer unfolded on Sunday, June 20th, and today, Google is marking the occasion with a Google Doodle of a cheerful hedgehog wearing sunglasses who’s coated in shells and fruits. Even though from here on out, days in the Northern Hemisphere will continue to shorten, the Summer Solstice represents the date upon which the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere leans most towards the sun.
Google tends to commemorate major holidays and world events with Doodles of all kinds, but last year, the search engine marked the Summer Solstice with art depicting a flamingo taking a joy ride in a hot air balloon. These straightforwardly adorable aesthetic choices are obviously in keeping with the optimism of summer, but the Summer Solstice also has a rich and complicated history connected to different interesting traditions around the world. In Ottowa, Canada, the Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival takes place, and at Stonehenge, revelers gather to watch the sunrise.
Still more interestingly, in ancient Greece, the Summer Solstice represented an opportunity for the temporary abandonment of social hierarchies during the festival of Kronia. As part of this festival, class divisions were put aside and slaves were able to participate in revelry alongside the masters and lords; this festival was meant to emulate the so-called Golden Age of Kronos, a time in which all of humankind was considered to be equal and labor wasn’t necessary in order to maintain survival.
In 2021, the Summer Solstice has arrived during a time when many are conflicted about re-entering a post-pandemic world, while still others are chafing against work requirements that no longer seem tenable in the aftermath of a global health catastrophe. Perhaps the best move is to reflect on the Golden Age of Kronos and envision a better world.