I am mildly obsessed with the solstices. It all started when I spent a week up in Alaska camping landing in Anchorage on June 21 – the summer solstice – at midnight. I didn't sleep for a week, but it was gorgeous.
Winter solstice gets me just the same. In other words, there is a magic to these times of the year on many layers. North of the equator, the summer solstice marks the longest day of the year (also the shortest night of the year) while the shortest day of the year is the winter solstice.
The tradition and science behind the celebration are inspiring and refreshing to me. I want my children to grow up with the same fascination and understanding of this part of nature.
When is the Summer Solstice?
The summer or June solstice occurs each year on the 21st of June at 15:54 UTC or 11:54 a.m. EST on the North American continent. This day marks the time to celebrate summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Tropic of Cancer & the Tropic of Capricorn are the latitudes where the Sun is directly overhead at noon once a year. In the Northern hemisphere, on the Tropic of Cancer, that is the Summer Solstice. In the Southern Hemisphere, on the Tropic of Capricorn, that is the Winter Solstice, typically occurring on December 21. (Source: SciJinx.gov)
What is So Special about Summer Solstice?
One definition from a scientific standpoint is as follows:
“The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star (sun) that it orbits. Earth's maximum axial tilt toward the sun is 23° 26′. This happens twice each year, at which times the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the north or the south pole.”
In other words, June 21st marks the day that the North Pole is tilted closest to the sun. As a result, this is the longest day (in terms of daylight hours) of the year for those of us living in the northern hemisphere. Additionally, it is the day that the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky. Once this day passes, each day has less and less daylight. The summer solstice is also referred to as midsummer as it marks the point when farmers have completed their planting and the first day of summer.
What is the spiritual meaning of summer solstice?
According to the Huffington Post, the spiritual meaning varies across the globe. For lovers of nature and science, this day marks an important one in the cycle of the year. So, experiencing this day from sunrise to sunset is a piece of the celebration in order to truly feel the earth's event.
For example, here in the United States, the Pagan's celebrate on a grand scale at Pagan Spirit Gathering in Missouri. This event involves prayers, rituals, and other sacred acts. In addition, there is a large crowd, some 30K or more, that head to Stonehenge to embrace the solstice.
Summer solstice traditions, as you can see, vary greatly but all come back to the central point of a solstice. The year is moving and the earth is turning every day. Thus, there is nothing we can do except to come together to honor that wonderous movement and accept the energy it offers us from a variety of perspectives.
Books for Kids
So, where do we start talking without children about the solstice? Of course, a great place to start is with books including the below list of our favorite children's books that celebrate summer solstice:
The Longest Day: Celebrating Summer Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer
This book inspires me and invites the reader in with adorable illustrations and bright colors. Furthermore, Linda Bleck offers us wonderful illuminating illustrations while Wendy Pfeffer delivers engaging prose. In addition, this book enlightens us on the history and science behind the summer solstice. Pfeffer also includes background on summer celebrations from various cultures around the world, the icing on the cake!
The Summer Solstice by Ellen Jackson
This book is super cool taking us on a summer solstice journey through the mysterious rites of the Egyptians, the tales of fairies and selkies, and the modern parades and baseball games. She left me warm & fuzzy learning about the folklore of this beautiful celebration.
Shanna and the Goddess: A Summer Solstice Story by Arie Farnam
This story of hope & confidence practically brought tears to my eyes. Connecting this heartwarming tale to the summer solstice, a time of renewal seems fitting.
Under Alaska's Midnight Sun by Deb Vanasse
Alaska during the solstice is a unique and magical time. With little darkness, light infuses the days giving way to only a few hours of dusk. This book introduces this amazingness to young children in a simple and beautiful way.
What is Solstice? by Gail Terp
15 Ways to Celebrate Summer Solstice with Kids
- Find a local summer solstice celebration
- Learn about Stonehenge or, better yet, take a trip to England to visit Stonehenge, considered the place where ancient people organized their calendars.
- Make flower crowns with kids
- Teach your child how to do yoga's sun salutation
- Go on a hike
- Get up with the sunrise and go to bed with the sunset
- Work those fine motor skills and make a sun weaving
- Design a fairy garden
- Read & learn about the solstice together as a family
- Learn about the science of the solstices
- Cute & easy sun craft for kids
- Make a pony bead sun catcher
- Make flower newspaper planters
- Plant a tree
- Make a magic seed star
Educational Videos for Kids
Why the Days are Shorter in Winter & Longer in Summer
The Longest Day of the Year: The Solstice!