Solstice is June 20. Why it's the longest day of the year and how to celebrate in Phoenix

Shanti Lerner
Arizona Republic

The temperature in Phoenix has been in the triple digits for a few weeks now, but don’t be surprised if someone tells you it technically isn’t summer yet.

The first day of summer 2021 is June 20. It'll be a long, hot day here in Phoenix but for many cultures around the world, the first day of summer is welcomed with celebrations and rituals that recognize the sun's importance to human life. Summer solstice observations take many forms around the world.

Here are facts about the summer solstice: Why it's the longest day of the year, how it's celebrated around the world and a couple of ways you can mark the official beginning of summer in the Valley.

Summer fun:A guide to the best things to do and see this summer in metro Phoenix

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. It is the day when the sun travels its longest path through the sky and reaches its highest point. In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice occurs between June 20 and 22.

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year because, due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis, the North Pole is shifted almost directly toward the sun, hence the long hours of daylight, according to

In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs on Dec. 21 or 22.

How is the summer solstice celebrated?

For centuries the position of the sun at specific times was an indication of how to plant or harvest crops or practice day-to-day tasks or rituals.

According to Scientific American, the Mayans and Aztecs used the summer and winter solstices as markers to build structures that precisely line up with shadows created by the sun. Many Native American tribes recognize the summer solstice with a Sun Dance. notes that the ancient Greeks used the solstice as a one-month countdown to the beginning of the Olympic games. In Sweden, the solstice is called Midsommar and celebrations welcome the summer as a season of fertility according to the Swedish Institute.

Some thousands of people gather to celebrate the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in Salisbury, England, at sunrise early Wednesday June 21, 2017.

The Stonehenge rock formation in England perfect aligns with the sun's movement on both the summer and winter solstices. Although its origins and reasons for its creation are not understood, Stonehenge has become one of the most popular places to observe the solstice.

Summer solstice celebrations in Phoenix

Scottsdale Solstice Celebration: Visit Solstice Park for live music, magicians and free snow cones to welcome summer. Visitors are encouraged to watch the sun shine through the park's structures and celebrate Scottsdale’s newest park.

Details: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, June 20. Solstice Park (formerly Soleri Plaza), 4420 N.  Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. Free.

Tempe Summer Solstice Ride: Join the Tempe Bicycle Action Group for this ride to promote cycling as a means of transportation and recreation. Bring your bike, water and sunscreen and cruise around town.

Details: 10 a.m. Saturday, June 26. Jaycee Park, 817 W. Fifth St., Tempe. Free.,

You can connect with Arizona Republic Culture and Outdoors Reporter Shanti Lerner through email at  or you can also follow her on Twitter

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