How much do you know about summer solstice?

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Summer is known for its longer days and shorter nights. The longest of these days is the summer solstice, which falls on June 21 this year for the Northern Hemisphere. But what makes the summer solstice so special?

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice is considered the first day of summer. It is the day on which the sun reaches its northernmost position in the sky for us. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, followed by the shortest night. The Northern Hemisphere experiences the summer solstice between June 20 and 22 each year, while it falls between Dec. 20 and 22 in the Southern Hemisphere. Factors like the “wobble” of Earth’s axis contribute to the summer solstice landing on different days. As the Earth continues to rotate, each hemisphere goes on to experience its winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.

What causes solstices?

The Earth’s 23.5 degree tilt toward the sun causes solstices to occur. The northern half of the Earth is tilted the closest it gets to the sun all year during the summer solstice, causing us experience more daylight than usual. The Earth’s tilt is also the reason we experience seasons.

How is the summer solstice celebrated around the world?

The summer solstice is celebrated worldwide with traditions both new and old -- some of which date back to ancient times. Neolithic humans are thought to have considered the solstice of great importance and used it as an an indicator of when to plant and harvest their crops. Native American tribes celebrated it with rituals. The summer solstice is called Midsummer in northern European countries like Sweden and Norway, where it is a day of festivity, food, bonfires and more. Thousands from around the world still travel to Wiltshire, England, on the summer solstice to watch the sunrise at Stonehenge. There are endless ways to celebrate the summer solstice, from practicing yoga to maypole dancing.

Enjoy this year’s summer solstice by celebrating the Earth and taking advantage of some extra sunlight.