When is it? Why is it the ‘longest day of the year’?

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The temperature in Western and Southwestern U.S. has been in the triple digits for a few weeks now, but don’t be surprised if someone tells you it technically isn’t summer yet.

The first day of summer 2021 is June 20 at 11:32 p.m. EDT. It’s often called the longest day of the year because it’s the day with the most daylight (every “day” has 24 hours).  

For many cultures around the world, the first day of summer is welcomed with celebrations and rituals that recognize the sun’s importance to human life. Summer solstice observations take many forms around the world.

While it marks the first day of summer, the real heat is still to come. On average, there is a one-month lag between the solstice and peak summer temperatures, according to climatologist Brian Brettschneider. That’s why July is almost always the hottest month of the year in most locations. 

Here are facts about the summer solstice:

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice is the day when the sun travels its longest path through the sky and reaches its highest point.

Due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis, the North Pole is shifted almost directly toward the sun, hence the long hours of daylight, according to Britannica.com.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice occurs between June 20 and 22.In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs on Dec. 21 or 22.

What are some summer solstice rituals?

For centuries the position of the sun at specific times was an indication of how to plant or harvest crops or practice day-to-day tasks or rituals.

The Mayans and Aztecs used the summer and winter solstices as markers to build structures that precisely line up with shadows created by the sun, according to Scientific American. Many Native American tribes recognize the summer solstice with a Sun Dance.

History.com notes that the ancient Greeks used the solstice as a one-month countdown to the beginning of the Olympic games. In Sweden, the solstice is called Midsommar and celebrations welcome the summer as a season of fertility according to the Swedish Institute.

The Stonehenge rock formation in England perfect aligns with the sun’s movement on both the summer and winter solstices. Although its origins and reasons for its creation are not understood, Stonehenge has become one of the most popular places to observe the solstice.

Was Stonehenge moved? New clues suggest the prehistoric monument was first built in Wales

Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY. Follow Arizona Republic reporter Shanti Lerner on Twitter at @ShantiLerner.





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