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Summer Solstice: the longest day

Deep snow in winter, tall grain in summer. —Estonian proverb

In the northern hemisphere this year, the Summer Solstice is Saturday, June 21. (In the southern hemisphere, the solstices are reversed, so June 21 is Winter Solstice.) Summer Solstice is the one day per year that the sun rises earliest and sets the latest. It is, simply put, the year’s longest day. It’s also known as Midsummer and St. John’s Day. (The reason the day is the “first day of Summer” and also “Midsummer” is because in some cultures, it signifies the beginning of Summer, and in others it notes the midway point between Spring and Autumn.)

Summer Sun

First day of summer! (Image courtesy of Nature Friends Los Angeles.)

In North America, the Summer Solstice officially beings at 6:51 AM ET (10:51 AM UTC) on Saturday this year. explains:

The earth spins around its axis, an imaginary line going right through the planet between the north and south poles. The axis is tilted somewhat off the plane of the earth’s revolution around the sun. The tilt of the axis is 23.5 degrees; thanks to this tilt, we enjoy the four seasons. For several months of the year, one half of the earth receives more direct rays of the sun than the other half.

When the axis tilts towards the sun, as it does between June and September, it is summer in the northern hemisphere but winter in the southern hemisphere. Alternatively, when the axis points away from the sun from December to March, the southern hemisphere enjoys the direct rays of the sun during their summer months.

According to, Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning ‘sun’ + ‘to stand still.’ As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.

Revelers celebrate Summer Solstice at Stonehenge; image courtesy of The Washington Post

Revelers celebrate Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. (Image courtesy of The Washington Post.)

Here’s a great video (2 min. 9 sec.) from 2010 showing the Solstice celebration at Stonehenge! Just like watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Years, celebrating Summer Solstice at Stonehenge is a life goal!

For those living above the Arctic Circle, the Summer Solstice is literally a day without night. In Alaska, for example, they celebrate the midnight sun! (This year in Fairbanks, sunset is 12:47 AM and sunrise is 2:58 AM—just under 2 hours and 15 minutes later! Can you imagine? That’s not even enough time for it to get much darker than twilight.)

Are you all doing anything for the first day of summer? Heading out the to beach for a day of fun on the sand and surf? Curling up with a good book in your backyard? Let me know!

About V.E.

author, poet, editor, human

One comment on “Summer Solstice: the longest day

  1. Patricia
    June 24, 2014

    Definitely cooking outside.There’s nothing as tasty as grilled food. Have a big cook-out on the solstice.


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