TODAY is the longest day of the year. The sun rose at 4.43am and will set at 9.21pm tonight after 16 hours, 38 minutes and 20 seconds of daylight.
This is the summer solstice that has been celebrated from time immemorial by pagans, druids, Vikings and the ancient civilisations of Egypt, the Aztecs, Rome and Greece.
Everybody, in fact, who likes the excuse for a party.
These days it's more likely to be welcomed by the retailers of barbecue sets, beefburgers, Lambrusco and canned lager, all praying for a long hot summer.
Their prayers will not be out of place.
The solstice, like many pagan festivals, was adopted and adapted by Christian religion and celebrated on St John's Eve with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking.
This, however, eventually went a bit far and the church had to put their house in order in the 15th century after one prelate recorded: “At first, men and women came to church with candles and other lights and prayed all night long. In the process of time, however, men left such devotion and used songs and dances and fell into lechery and gluttony turning the good, holy devotion into sin.”
Twas ever thus.
This morning, thousands will have been observing the occasion at Stonehenge which, on this day each year, allows the public to actually move among the stones rather than be marshalled along a tourist path.
The original festival was to celebrate solar energy. Some pagans still view it as a marriage between the Sun King and Mother Earth.
Unfortunately, the marriage seems to have been a bit shaky in recent years: six out of the last seven summers have had above average rainfall and precious little sunshine.
A meeting of weather experts in Exeter this week said we can expect the same again this summer. The reason is that we are in the middle of a weather cycle which occurs every 10 to 20 years.
Professor Stephen Belcher, chairman of the meeting, did have some good news. He said they believed the Atlantic current cycle, thought to have commenced in 2007, was coming to a close.
The bad news is that this will not happen for another five to 10 years.
Which is all the more reason to make the most of those sunshine days we do get. After all, it's only six months before the winter solstice on December 21 when days will have less than eight hours of daylight.
It's nice to have something to look forward to.