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Summer Solstice: Everything to Know About the Longest Day of the Year

Sun-soaked festivities return after two years of COVID shutdowns.

Summer solstice over Stonehenge
The summer solstice sun breaks through the stones at Stonehenge, as observed by revelers on June 21, 2019, in Amesbury, England.
Chris Gorman/Getty Images

The day many of us longed for during those short, dark, cold winter days is upon us. Tuesday, June 21, is the longest day of the year, celebrated as the summer solstice. Technically the solstice arrived at 5:14 a.m. ET in the US. Here are some basic solstice facts.

What is the summer solstice?

As the Farmer's Almanac explains, the solstice occurs "when Earth arrives at the point in its orbit where the North Pole is at its maximum tilt" toward the sun, or about 23.5 degrees, which translates to "the longest day and shortest night" of the year. (By longest "day," we mean the longest period of sunlight hours.) On the day of the June solstice, the Northern Hemisphere receives sunlight at the most direct angle of the year."

The solstice isn't always on the same date. In 2023, it'll be on June 21 again, but in 2024 and 2025, it'll be on June 22.

The June solstice means something different to people living in the southern hemisphere, where it's the shortest day of the year, and marks the beginning of winter.

How much sun will we see?

The amount of sun you'll get depends on where you live. 

You can figure it out for your city by going to TimeAndDate.com, entering in your city, and clicking on Sun & Moon. The further north you are, the more sun. Minneapolis and Seattle, you get 15 hours, 59 minutes of sun. Boston, 15 hours, 17 minutes. San Francisco, 14 hours, 47 minutes. Los Angeles, 14 hours, 26 minutes. Dallas, you get 14 hours, 19 minutes. Miami, 13 hours 45 minutes. 

And let's talk about the Land of the Midnight Sun. Anchorage, Alaska, gets 19 hours, 21 minutes. But Fairbanks gets a whopping 21 hours, 49 minutes. And at the very top of the state, in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, the sun is up for 24 hours. It's worth going to their Farmer's Almanac page just to marvel at that.

Celebrating the solstice

Some countries and cultures really get into celebrating the solstice. Sweden calls it Midsummer, and always celebrates on a June Friday, so will mark the solstice on June 24 instead of June 21. Traditional festivities there include folk dancing, wreath making, and maypole raising. (And you may have seen the 2019 horror movie Midsommar, which depicts a fictional and very scary midsummer celebration.)

In Seattle, home of that luxurious 16 hours of sun, the traditional Solstice Parade and Fair returned to the city's Fremont neighborhood after taking two years off during the pandemic. That celebration occurred on June 18, and featured the event's traditional naked bicyclist ride (cyclists wear elaborate body paint).

And at England's iconic Stonehenge, festivities also returned after two years of no celebrations. People gather at the famed stone structures as their predecessors did thousands of years ago. The huge stones of the monument were set up in 2500 BC to frame the sunrise at summer solstice, and the sunset at the winter solstice, the British Museum notes.