The summer solstice happens every year when the the Earth's North Pole is tilted the most toward the Sun. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and astronomically, it's the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, winter will begin. Some people like to celebrate Midsummer's Day on June 24, which is an ancient quarter day that historically marks the middle of growing season. Midsummer's Eve is held the night before.
- The word "solstice" comes from the Latin word "sol" which means Sun and from "stitium" which means "stopped."
- Have you noticed that the sun sets in a slightly different place every day? That's because the Earth is travelling around the Sun, and on the summer solstice, the Sun will set at the northernmost part of the sky before moving southward as we near the winter solstice.
- The solstice does not happen at the same time every year but it often falls on June 20, 21 or 22. That's because the Earth takes 365.242 days to orbit the Sun, and we have a leap year every four years.
- If you stand outside on the solstice, you'll see your shortest shadow. That's because the Sun is highest in the sky above you. In the winter, you have longer shadows because the Sun is lower in the sky.
- The summer solstice is the longest day of the year! But that's misleading because each day is 24 hours long. During the solstice, when we say "longest day," we mean that it's the day with the longest daylight. In the winter, it's the shortest (least amount of sun) day.
- You'd think that on the solstice, the sun would rise the earliest. Nope! It usually occurs about a week ahead of time, depending on the Earth's elliptical (elongated) orbit.
- The stones at Stonehenge, opens a new window mark the solstice. It's incredible to think that our ancestors were so in tune with the sun that they built a monument that aligns with the movement of the Earth.
Celebrate the Solstice
- Try the Swedish tradition of eating the first strawberries of the season (and perhaps with cream, yum!).
- Have a bonfire! Check local fire ordinances or for any fire bans first.
- Decorate your home with fresh summer flowers.
- Check out National Geographic virtually for more wonders of the world.
- Read The Longest Day by Wendy Pfeffer with your family or friends.
- Whip up a new dish to celebrate the long hot days of summer. Maybe something hot and spicy in honor of summer? Or pick up a cookbook on preserving and canning your garden.