The Summer Solstice

Jun 12, 2024

This year, the Summer Solstice occurs on Thursday, June 20, 2024, at 4:51 P.M. EDT. The Summer Solstice marks the official beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring when Earth arrives at the point in its orbit where the North Pole is at its maximum tilt resulting in the longest day of the calendar year in the Northern Hemisphere. By longest “day” we mean the longest period of sunlight hours.

Some Summer Solstice Facts:

  • The Solstice does not always occur on the same day. It all depends on when the Sun reaches its northernmost point from the celestial equator. Therefore, the solstice won’t always occur on the same day. Currently, it shifts between June 20, 21, and 22.
  • The Summer Solstice is the day with the longest period of sunlight. For those locations at the Tropic of Cancer and northward, the Sun is highest in the sky on the June solstice, and your shadow (at local, or solar, noon, not clock-time noon) is the shortest that it will be all year (in fact, at the Tropic of Cancer there will be no shadow).
  • The word solstice means “sun stands still” and the comes from the Latin words ‘sol’ meaning ‘sun’ and ‘stitium’ meaning ‘still’ or ‘stopped’ because the sun appears to linger in the sky and stop “moving at the northernmost point in the sky.
  • Several monuments are believed to have been built to align with the rising or setting sun during the summer solstice, including the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming and the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge in England.

Ways to Celebrate the Solstice:

  • Go strawberry picking. There are many people—like the Swedes—who celebrate the beginning of summer by eating the first strawberries of the season.
  • Have a solstice evening bonfire! Many northern people also celebrate a solstice holiday known as Midsummer’s Day on June 24, which is one of the four ancient quarter days of the year. The eve prior is called Midsummer’s Eve, marking the shortest night of the year. A common way to celebrate is to have a bonfire party! In the Austrian state of Tyrol, torches and bonfires are lit up on mountainsides, which is a stunningly beautiful sight.
  • In Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice coincided with the rising of the Nile River. As it was crucial to predict this annual flooding, the Egyptian New Year began at this important solstice.
  • In centuries past, the Irish would cut hazel branches on solstice eve to be used in searching for gold, water, and precious jewels.

Submitted by Rachel Adler


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