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David Emery

Eggs and the Summer Solstice

By June 21, 2011

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Photo by David EmeryJune 21 is the summer solstice, also known as the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, not to mention the longest day of the year.

It all has to do with the constantly changing tilt of the earth along its north-south axis. On June 21 the northern hemisphere is angled more toward the sun than on any other day of the year (just as during the winter solstice on December 22 it's angled more away from the sun than on any other day of the year).

Seasonal benchmarks like the summer/winter solstices and the spring/fall equinoxes held deep, mystical significance for the ancients, who situated some of their grandest monuments such that they were geographically aligned with these celestial events (e.g., the Great Pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge in England). Indeed, some neo-pagan groups today — Wiccans and Druids, for example — fancy themselves to be upholding ancient traditions by celebrating the occasions as holidays.

Which brings me to a peculiar seasonal superstition that still survives today (I say "still," though in truth we don't really know how old it is), namely the belief that on one or both equinoxes — the only two times of the year when day and night are of equal length — it's uniquely possible to balance raw eggs on end — which, of course, it isn't.

Come to find out, judging from the sudden uptick in popularity of my article on egg balancing on June 21 and December 22 every year, a lot of folks apparently believe the same "special phenomenon" applies on the solstices.

But in a word, it doesn't. Because it doesn't really apply to the equinoxes, either. There's no scientific reason why eggs should be easier to balance on one day rather than another. In point of fact, if you're patient and dedicated, you can balance eggs on end 365 days a year.

Sorry if I've left anyone with egg on their face. Happy summer solstice!

Comments

June 23, 2011 at 10:59 am
(1) Dan Mulligan says:

It’s interesting that I often hear the summer Solstice referred to as the first day of summer, but it appears this is a recent idea. In earlier historical accounts this day is referred to as mid-summer’s day. By ancient reckoning summer would have started around May 5′th (astronomically speaking). Have you got any idea what happened here to change our perception of the seasons?

June 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm
(2) FFS says:

Its still NOT known as the first day of Summer outside of some weird American and highly incorrect circles. How often are you going to repeat this patently false nonsense on a site supposedly dedicated to facts? There is absolutely no version of the seasosn in which June the 21st is considered to be the first day of Summer. Its MIDsummer and the only people who call it the first day of summer are backwoods inbreds from the states.

June 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm
(3) Britt says:

It is also known outside of the states by people who are not ‘backwoods inbreds’, culturally it is up to interpretation. In the states and much of the northern hemisphere the solstices and equinoxes are significant markers that correspond closely to meteorological lag.

While summer may astronomically start closer to may, the weather tends not to change until later. This meteorological lag does account for the warmest days of the year, which is commonly what is thought of with the concept of summer. Throughout various cultures, seasons vary. Some people view it as the beginning of may, some as early as march.

Many cultures such as the Persians celebrate their new year on the vernal equinox, which is also a mid point, however it is considered to be the first day of spring.

When people of different countries view the begging of seasons has more to do with cultural aspects than anything scientific. So perhaps relax on your judgment of our cousins across the pond.

June 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm
(4) wondering says:

I’m confused. If June 21st is NOT the first day of summer, why, when I google “first day of summer”, does every website including Farmer’s Almanac say the first day of summer is June 21st? FFS, I find it hard to believe that all these references are written by backwoods inbreds!

July 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm
(5) Dan says:

Well … I am confused too … that’s why I started this thread. But I have to say, just because you found it on the internet does not mean it is true. And if you google “mid-summer” you will also find hundreds of references identifying it with June 21st.

June 23, 2011 at 11:48 pm
(6) Xntric says:

Try it yourself. My stepson told me this a year or two ago, so I balanced eggs on a few random days nowhere equinoxes or solstices. Took pictures too.

Temperature of egg, smoothness of shell and type of surface you are using are most important factors.

June 21, 2012 at 8:15 am
(7) JAM says:

From my experiences, the “backwoods, inbred” people are usually the ones who think their opinions and the way they do things are the only “right” way to do things.

June 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm
(8) Canadian says:

a friend told me about this egg balancing many years ago. Since then on many occasions I have balanced eggs on either end (larger bottom end and smaller pointer top end), on June 21st, and often plus or minus a day or 2. But before and after those rough time frames, using same eggs, have not been able to duplicate, even in same locations, and with considerable patience…..leads me to believe that there is indeed a correlation to balancing the eggs right on the solstice (or at least very close to it).

June 22, 2013 at 12:25 am
(9) Dave says:

Fall is sept 21st to dec 21st. Winter dec21 to march21. Spring march 21 to june 21. And summer june 21 to sept 21. No idea why angry boy up there is calling people inbred. Its alwys humoorous to see really stupid angry people who are ignorant and proud of it hahaha.

June 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm
(10) JDG says:

Yep, it says so on my calendar.

July 1, 2013 at 11:00 am
(11) Kimberly says:

To Canadian, I agree. Have had same results. Just today tried 12 different eggs. Not a single 1 would stand on either end. Will keep testing theory.

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