When is the first day of summer and why does it differ each year? Not only does this day mark the beginning of summer here in the United State, but across the globe, different cultures celebrate the solstice with different and interesting traditions for this change of the seasons.
The first day of summer arrives with the solstice on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 5:14 a.m. EST.
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Earth is tilting mostly toward the Sun. As seen from Earth, the Sun is directly overhead at noon 23.5 degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Cancer, named for the constellation Cancer the Crab, its northernmost point.
For those who live in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the shortest day of the year and the arrival of winter. The solstice happens at the same moment for everyone, everywhere on Earth.
Why Isn’t Summer On The Same Date Every Year?
The timing of the summer solstice is not based on a specific calendar date or time. It all depends on when the Sun reaches that northernmost point from the equator. The summer solstice can occur anywhere between June 20-22.
What Does The Term “Solstice” Mean?
The term “solstice” comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). At the solstice, the angle between the Sun’s rays and the plane of the Earth’s equator (called declination) appears to stand still. This phenomenon is most noticeable at the Arctic Circle where the Sun hugs the horizon for a continuous 24 hours, thus the term “Land of the Midnight Sun.”
Some people believe that our seasons are caused by the Earth’s changing distance from the Sun. In reality, it is due to the 23-degree tilt of the Earth’s axis that the Sun appears above the horizon for different lengths of time at different seasons. The tilt determines whether the Sun’s rays strike at a low angle or more directly.
Summer Solstice Folklore
The summer solstice has long been celebrated by cultures around the world:
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. And many European cultures hold what are known as Midsummer celebrations at the solstice, which include gatherings at Stonehenge and the lighting of bonfires on hilltops.
However you are spending your summer this year, just remember to enjoy the long days, lasting sunshine and the sun’s rays on your face.
Article and images sourced from FarmersAlmanac.com