Posted at 08:31 AM ET, 06/21/2011

Summer solstice — or winter solstice, depending on where you live — dawns today (Photos)


Mayan descendants pray at a ceremony in honor of the coming solstice at the Mayan archeological site of Tazumal in Chalchuapa, El Salvador. (Luis Romero/AP)

The solstice derives from Latin words that mean, the “sun stands still.” It’s the day, because of the Earth’s rotation, that the sun appears to stop moving north, and starts heading south again. It will reach the highest point at 1:16 p.m. EDT, the time when it officially becomes summer — or winter, depending on which hemisphere you reside.

For those south of the equator Tuesday is actually the winter solstice. Rituals greeting the change of season are happening around the world. In El Salvador, Mayans hold ceremonies to help balance the energy of Mother Earth and ask for abundant crops. In the U.S., yoga practitioners embark on 108 rounds of Surya Namaskar — or sun salutations in English. The 108 marks the number of prayer beads used to count mantras in the Hindu practice. In England, around 18,000 neo-pagans and new agers watched the sun rise over the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge.

Here are images from solstice celebrations over the years:


Young Belarusians jump over a campfire on Ivan Kupala Day, an ancient nightlong celebration marking the summer solstice in 2010. (Sergei Grits - AP)

Yoga enthusiasts from across the country participate in the "Summer Solstice in Times Square Yoga-thon" in New York, June 21, 2007. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

People dance as they celebrate the summer solstice shortly after 04:52 a.m. at Stonehenge, England, early Monday, June 21, 2010. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Members of the Ice Queens: Ukon Julha blows kisses into the crowd during the Solstice Parade, Saturday, June 18, 2011, in Seattle. (Steve Ringman/AP)

A Druid priest, following ancient Celtic traditions, officiates at the summer solstice ceremony at Stonehenge in Britain, June 21, 1998. (Paul Bates/Reuters)

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By  |  08:31 AM ET, 06/21/2011

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