What is the summer solstice?
It is the longest day of the year for a given hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere (where the New York City and United States is located), that date occurs sometime between June 20 and June 22. The exact date depends on the year and the time zone in which the solstice is occurring. In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs between the dates of December 20 and 22.
When the summer solstice occurs in one hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs in the other
On the same date that the summer solstice is occurring in the northern and southern hemispheres, the winter solstice is occurring in the opposite hemisphere. Thus, sometime between the dates of June 20-22, the summer's solstice is occurring in the northern hemisphere at the same time the winter solstice is occurring in the southern hemisphere. Between the dates of December 20-22, the summer solstice is occurring in the southern hemisphere while the winter solstice is occurring in the northern hemisphere.
What happens when the northern summer solstice occurs?
The northern hemisphere's summer solstice happens when the North Pole is most directly tilted toward the sun, at 23.4 degrees. At this time, the sun is right over the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere.
What does the word "solstice" mean?
The word "solstice" comes from the Latin word "solstitium," which means "sun-stopping." That is because from its "rise and set" point on the horizon, it appears to stop and then reverse direction. The sun is visible in the sky on this day for the longest period of time for the year.
Some religious and cultural celebrations of summer solstice
People have celebrated the summer solstice since ancient times, with a variety of celebrations and observances.
- Britain's Stonehenge
Many believe that Great Britain's Stonehenge was the site of ancient celebrations by the Druids, and many people still celebrate summer solstice at this ancient site, which was built between 3000 and 1600 BC. There is no proof that celebrations happened in ancient times at Stonehenge; nonetheless, thousands of pagans still gather every year to watch the sunrise at Stonehenge on during summer's solstice.
- As ancient Egypt's new year
In ancient Europe, summer solstice was celebrated because it came just before the appearance of the Sirius Star. Ancient Europeans believed that this star was responsible for the River Nile's annual flood, which they needed to live. Egypt's civilization could not have developed without the flooding of the Nile River, because it provided the only significant source of water, and it also helped agriculture in another way. When the Nile flooded, the water was full of silt, which would stay when the water receded, fertilizing the land so that Egyptians could grow crops.
- The ancient Chinese Yin
Summer solstice was celebrated as ancient China's Yin while winter solstice was its Yang. The Chinese believed that Yin and Yang waxed and waned directly in proportion to each other, with the summer solstice signifying that Yang was at its strongest; it also signified that the switch to Yin had begun. Winter solstice signified the reverse.
- Ancient Greece's festival Kronia
Ancient Greece's festival Kronia occurred on the date of summer solstice and honored the God of agriculture, Cronus. This was noteworthy in part because slaves and freemen could both participate in the festival equally, unlike other feasts and celebrations of the year.
- Midnight baseball in Alaska
Modern Alaska celebrates summer solstice in Fairbanks with a baseball game by its baseball team, the Alaska Goldpanners. The game starts at 10:30 PM and stretches into the following morning, well lit by the "midnight sun."