The summer solstice happens in June every year, though the exact calendar day varies. Find out what exactly the summer solstice is, when summer solstice is in Canada this year, and what the cultural significance of this astronomical event is around the world.

What Is the Summer Solstice?

Scientifically speaking, summer solstice refers to the moment when the Earth’s axis reaches its maximum tilt toward the sun, which is when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer. This event happens once every year due to the 23.5-degree tilt the Earth’s axis has relative to its orbit around the sun.

The term solstice is derived from the Latin words for the sun (sol) and to stand (sistere), chosen due to the way the sun appears to stay in the same position for a couple of days around this date. For places above the equator in the Northern Hemisphere, this is the longest day of the year and the sun is at its highest position in the sky. This also means it will be the shortest night of the year.

Summer Solstice 2023 in Canada

The 2023 summer solstice is on June 21st, making this the longest day of 2023. Here in Canada, the summer solstice coincides with National Indigenous Peoples Day. The lively Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival is celebrated on the traditional and unceded territories of the Algonquin peoples and their descendants in Ottawa. This annual family-friendly festival celebrates the art, food, music, and culture of Canada’s diverse indigenous cultures.

What Summer Solstice Means for Different Cultures

Summer solstice means different things for different cultures, with some parts of the world considering it to be the start of summer, while others use it to mark midsummer. For example, Sweden celebrates a holiday called Midsummer, marked by wearing folk costumes and gathering around a maypole to sing and dance.

The summer solstice has been a significant event for millennia. Although little is known about who built Stonehenge, this ancient monument’s Heel Stone lines up with the rising sun, hinting that the summer solstice was likely significant even in ancient times. Other ancient monuments in Egypt and Central America also seem to indicate an awareness of the summer solstice.

The summer solstice is still recognized in many places and is often marked with rituals or festivals that include food, drinking, singing, and lighting bonfires. In some cultures, this event is tied to religion. Many Christian denominations commemorate St. John the Baptist during summer solstice, including throughout Europe and the Americas.

Learn More About Summer Solstice and Other Astronomical Events

When it is the summer solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, which is the shortest day of the year. Are you curious about the difference between the summer solstice and winter solstice, how astronomers measure the tilt of the Earth, or other fascinating information related to space science and exploration? If so, visit us at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre to discover more about the universe.

Share this:

Like this: