(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 9, 2011. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
June is one of four months with an even 30 days. There are two possible origins of the name. The sixth month may be named to honor the Roman goddess Juno, queen of the gods and wife of Jupiter. Another possibility is that the Romans named the month from the Latin word “iuniores” or young ones, in contrast to the “maiores” or elders honored in the month of May.
Summer Officially Begins
Meteorologically, June 1 marks the beginning of the summer months June, July and August in the northern hemisphere. Traditionally June was considered an auspicious time for a wedding, since Juno was the goddess of marriage and protector of married women. It’s also possible that many weddings were postponed until June, since according to folk wisdom, May was an unlucky month to wed (“marry in the month of May, and you’ll live to rue the day.”)
The summer solstice, the day on which the earth’s axial tilt is most inclined toward the sun, occurs on June 20th or 21st in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, of course, June 20th or 21st marks the shortest day of the year, and the beginning of winter. The word solstice comes from the Latin "solstitium" or "point at which the sun seems to stand still." Although the generous amount of sun in mid-June may make you feel that summer will last forever, the minutes of daylight do indeed begin to decline with each passing day as the calendar moves inexorably from the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox. Cultures around the world have observed the longest day or midsummer day with rituals and festivals. Egypt’s Great Pyramids and Britain’s Stonehenge are centuries-old testaments to the importance of the solstice to early cultures. Observing the changes of the seasons was not just an excuse to party, but an essential part of life for ancient peoples, according to astronomer Ricky Patterson of the University of Virginia.1 Awareness of the calendar and its relationship to agriculture assisted farmers in the planting practices on which their very existence depended. One of William Shakespeare's best-loved comedies, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," is set on the eve of the solstice, when fairies were believed to be abroad.
Father’s Day, observed on the third Sunday in June, dates to the early years of the 20th century, shortly after the U.S. began celebrating Mother’s Day. Credit for the holiday goes to Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, who wished to honor the father who raised her and her five siblings after their mother died in childbirth. The first Father’s Day was held on June 19, 1910, the anniversary of the birth of Dodd’s father. President Calvin Coolidge supported the observance in 1924, but Father’s Day did not become official until 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson declared it a national holiday.
The traditional birthstone for the month of June is the elegant pearl. Unlike most gemstones which are mined from the earth, pearls are created organically within certain species of oysters and clams. Natural pearls are relatively rare and were once possessed only by the very rich. Today, cultured pearls -- those raised in oyster farms -- are readily available. The pearl’s translucence and luster make it highly sought after for all types of jewelry. Although pure white is the classic color of this gem, pearls can also be found in a variety of delicate shades including cream, pink, gray and black.
The alternate gemstone for June, the romantically-named moonstone, is a type of feldspar which exhibits a transparent play of colors due to its thin layers. Since ancient times its silvery- or bluish-white sheen has led people to associate it with the moon. The ancient Romans thought that the stone held the image of Diana, goddess of the moon, within. Moonstones were thought to impart good fortune and wisdom to the wearer, and were considered holy and magical in India. Perhaps because of its association with the mysterious moon, some people believed that moonstone had the power to render a person invisible.
Another alternate June gemstone, the alexandrite is a relative newcomer to the world of gemstones. Discovered in 1834 near the Tokovaya River in Russia’s Ural Mountains, the stone was named to honor Alexander, the young son of Czar Nicholas, who went on to reign as Russia’s czar from 1855 to 1881. Alexandrite is a chrysoberyl whose impurities lend it an unusual color-changing quality. In daylight, alexandrite emits green hues; at night, under artificial light, it takes on a raspberry red color. Although a synthetic form of the stone is available, real alexandrite is quite rare, making it very expensive.
Those born in June can claim the lovely rose as their birth flower. Delicate and tough at the same time, this flowering shrub has been treasured throughout history for the fragrance and grace of its blossoms. There are around 150 different Rosa species found throughout the northern hemisphere, almost all of which share the common trait of having five petals. Cultivation of the rose probably began some 5000 years ago in China. Roses have long been used as a source of perfume and for medicinal purposes. Ancient Romans even used the flower's petals as confetti during celebrations. The rose’s association with the Greek goddess of love probably led to its traditional use as a symbol of romance. Red, yellow and white roses have been use to breed a huge variety of color choices covering the spectrum from palest buff to delicate pink to bright coral to a deep saturated red that is almost black.
The alternate June birth flower, the honeysuckle or Lonicera, grows as a shrub or vine. Its fragrant trumpet-shaped flowers, found in shades of white, yellow, pink or scarlet, contain a sweeet nectar which is attractive to hummingbirds and bees. Honeysuckle vines were cultivated in medieval gardens for their medicinal qualities. Also called fairy trumpets or woodbine, honeysuckles were once planted around homes to ward off evil and keep milk and butter sweet.
1 National Geographic: Summer Solstice 2010 - Why It's the First Day of Summer
History.com: Father's Day
Standard Dwarf Bearded Iris ‘Cat’s Eye’ by DG member TGBDN
Iris Garden by andreakw
Lily by KingsbraeGarden
Clematis by dianecordell
Peony by aulusgellius
“Study For the Quarrel of Oberon and Titania” by Sir Joseph Noel Paton, c. 1849, from Wikipedia Commons, in the public domain
Father’s Day vintage postcard by r3dqu33n
Iris and lupines by fuzzyjay
Pearls by juhanson
Moonstone by rubygirl jewelry
Alexandrite by Uncaught Exception
Roses by LuAnn Hunt
Honeysuckle by Tiggywinkle