Summer solstice 2024 is here, which means so is summer

The first day of summer is here. 

June 20 marks the first day of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere this year, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. What's more, Thursday will be the earliest start to summer in the past 228 years. 

The last time the summer solstice landed on June 20 was on June 20, 1796, when George Washington was president. 

The solstice will occur at 4:51 p.m. ET. This time of year often coincides with summer breaks, strawberries, and, of course, Stonehenge. 

FILE - The sun rises on the summer solstice behind the skyline of midtown Manhattan and the Empire State Building in New York City on June 21, 2023, as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

What does solstice mean? 

The word "solstice" comes from two Latin words: sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) according to the Almanac. 

The summer solstice takes place when the Tropic of Cancer is aligned directly with our sun. It's also the longest day of the year.  

Around the same time, the Southern Hemisphere is at its most extreme tilt away from the sun, entering the winter solstice and its shortest day of the year. 

Autumn and spring are marked by the autumnal equinox and vernal equinox, respectively, according to the National Weather Service’s website. 

Does the summer solstice fall on the same day every year?

The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere typically falls on a different date every year and those range from June 20 to June 22. 

When is meteorological summer? 

The summer solstice is part of the astronomical seasons, which are based on the Earth’s position relative to the sun. 

But meteorological seasons are based on the temperatures that would be expected during each season. 

While the summer solstice begins on June 20 this year, according to the meteorological season, the first day of summer already started on June 1. 

Meteorological seasons are divided into three-month periods. Meteorological summer includes June, July and August. 

Splitting the seasons into these nearly equal three-month periods makes seasonal recordkeeping much easier since the start and end dates of the seasons are always the same. 

Additionally, each meteorological season is always 90 to 92 days, depending on whether it's a leap year or not.

Summer solstice celebrations

There are many traditions around the world to welcome the summer solstice.  

In Sweden, it is customary to eat the first harvested strawberries of the season to celebrate the June solstice, according to the Almanac. 

One of the more famous celebrations during the summer solstice is the gathering at Stonehenge. 

Stonehenge was built on the flat lands of Salisbury Plain in stages starting 5,000 years ago, with the unique stone circle erected in the late Neolithic period about 2,500 B.C. Some of the stones, the so-called bluestones, are known to have come from the Preseli Hills in southwest Wales, nearly 150 miles (240 kilometers) away, but the origins of others remain a mystery. 

The site’s meaning has been the subject of vigorous debate, with some theories seemingly more outlandish, if not alien, than others. 

English Heritage notes several explanations — from Stonehenge being a coronation place for Danish kings, a druid temple, a cult center for healing, or an astronomical computer for predicting eclipses and solar events. 

The charity said the most generally accepted interpretation "is that of a prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun." 

After all, the stones match perfectly with the sun at both the summer and winter solstices.

What is the strawberry moon?

This year’s summer solstice comes with a treat: the first full moon of the summer, coined the strawberry moon. The moon won’t be pink or red in color: Its name comes from several Indigenous tribes who noticed that its timing coincided with the strawberry harvest. 

The Associated Press and FOX Weather contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.