Summer begins today. No, really.
May 5, 2006 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Happy Beltane! Today, astronomically speaking, is one of the four Cross-Quarter days, exactly midway between the solstices and equinoxes. To some people, that makes today the start of summer - after all, why would you begin the season that's supposed to be bright and hot on the day when the only direction to go is darker? (Yes, I know they say May 1 - the first site I linked to figures out the exact dates and times mathematically, so I'm more inclined to trust it).
posted by wanderingmind (16 comments total)
That reminds me: I'm late for my appointment the wicker man.

Oh, great CHRIST! NOOOO!
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:56 AM on May 5, 2006

Indeed, I always wondered why summer officially starts on the longest day of the year, as opposed to half way between the equinox and the solstice.
posted by SirOmega at 11:12 AM on May 5, 2006

Thank you, I've wondered about the summer date as well. However, the fact that the solstice is called 'Midsummer' in Europe, gave a clue.
posted by Goofyy at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2006 in Laramie, we had snow last night, and right now it's 42 degrees. I think our summer begins sometime in August.
posted by Sharktattoo at 11:34 AM on May 5, 2006

Perhaps summer starts later because it takes time to warm the planet. Like turning on the stove, the pot of water doesn't go from cold to hot in an instant, there is a delay. And once it warms up, it takes longer to cool down, which is why winter starts close to the end of the year.
posted by stbalbach at 12:28 PM on May 5, 2006

Stbalbach, on the page about May Day, it says:

On a planet without oceans or other large bodies of water, the temperature seasons would likely follow the solar seasons fairly closely. On Earth, the thermal season lags the solar season by about a month due to the slower heating of the largest water bodies. Thus, the astronomical seasons fit the thermal seasons a little better than the solar strength or day length. Climatologists take another approach in order to also incorporate our standard calendar by defining March-April-May as Spring; June-July-August as Summer, etc.

Nice post. Summer not starting until the solstice never made sense to me.
posted by eckeric at 1:38 PM on May 5, 2006

Well, start cookin'!
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:05 PM on May 5, 2006

Beltane Fire Festival
posted by homunculus at 3:25 PM on May 5, 2006

Cool. Back in March I was getting annoyed with people who claimed that the equinox was the first day of spring, as if it were an undisputed fact. It's good to know there are at least five different claims for it: February 1, March 1, March 21, April 1 (for some versions of Walpurgisnacht), and whenever the snow starts melting and the birds singing. First day of summer doesn't seem quite as important, but today seems like a good day for it.
posted by sfenders at 4:46 PM on May 5, 2006, I meant May 1st or April 31 of course, not "April 1". That's some other holiday.
posted by sfenders at 4:52 PM on May 5, 2006

But, if summer starts May 1 (or May 5), isn't it "over" by August 1 (or 5) -- before the hottest days of summer usually occur?
posted by Marla Singer at 5:36 PM on May 5, 2006

Two bits:

1) We start the year — January 1 — at no particularly interesting point of the solar year cycle, except perhaps, perihelion, the Earth's closest approach to the Sun. ... The English originally started the year March 25 but moved it to January 1 around 1772.

Does anyone know why New Year's was switched to Jan. 1 in 1772? Wasn't the adjustment to the Georgian calendar done in 1732? Or was this an Enlightment / Scientific idea?

2) I am from Southern California. The hottest part of our summer is usually July - September (or mid-October). And the "winter" starts with the rains, January - March (or mid-April). I won't touch fall (fire season) or spring (fog/gloom season) right now.

I am currently living in Ireland, where all the papers and meterologists started Spring on Feb. 1 with St. Brigid's Day and Summer with May 1st. Oddly enough, the rate of rain vs. sun has not changed much...
posted by msjen at 1:20 PM on May 6, 2006

I am so going to start using the cross quarters to define my year.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:14 PM on May 6, 2006

msjen: This article has some discussion on the significance of various new year dates, though it doesn't answer why they changed.
posted by cillit bang at 7:48 PM on May 6, 2006

Cillit Bang: Thanks for the link.

* In Christmas Style dating the new year started on 25 December. This was used in Germany and England until the 13th century, and in Spain from the 14th to the 16th century.

* In Annunciation Style dating the new year started on 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation. This was used in many parts of Europe in the Middle Ages. Annunciation Style continued to be used in the Kingdom of Great Britain until January 1, 1752, except Scotland which changed to Circumcision Style dating on 1 January 1600. The rest of Great Britain changed to Circumcision Style on the 1 January preceding the conversion in Great Britain from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar on 3/14 September 1752. The UK tax year still starts on 6 April which is 25 March + 12 days, eleven for the conversion from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar plus a dropped leap day in 1900.

* In Easter Style dating, the new year started on Easter Saturday (or sometimes on Good Friday). This was used in France from the 11th to the 16th century. A disadvantage of this system was that because Easter was a movable feast the same date could occur twice in a year; the two occurrences were distinguished as "before Easter" and "after Easter".

* In Circumcision Style dating, the new year started on 1 January, the Feast of the Circumcision (of Jesus).

So... basically, instead of calling January 1 New Year's Day, we could call it "Baby Jesus Gets His Foreskin Cut Off Day!" Imagine the Rose Parade floats for this theme...
posted by msjen at 5:41 AM on May 7, 2006

Despite the actual astronomical day, the actual festival is usually celebrated on April 30th. My ritual was on that day- any other Wiccans do so? I know some celebrate on April 22nd or May 1st.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 3:50 AM on May 8, 2006

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