The summer solstice arrives in the northern hemisphere on June 21 at 6:51 a.m. EDT, bringing us the longest day in the year -- which means lots of extra sunlight for festivities. The day is also considered to be sacred by many pagans and Wiccans around the world who celebrate the solstice among their other yearly holidays.
Some refer to the summer solstice as "Litha," a term that may derive from 8th century monk Bede's The Reckoning of Time. Bede names "Litha" as the Latin name for both June and July in ancient times.
The summer solstice is one of four solar holidays, along with the autumnal equinox, the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The other major pagan holidays are Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh.
Observers celebrate the solstice in myriad ways, including festivals, parades, bonfires, feasts and more. As one member of the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids explains, "What you're celebrating on a mystical level is that you're looking at light at its strongest. It represents things like the triumph of the king, the power of light over darkness, and just life – life at its fullest."
Celebrations for the summer solstice take place around the world, and not all are pagan-affiliated. One of the biggest pagan celebrations occurs at Stonehenge in England, but others take place among indigenous Latin and South American communities, and in Russia, Spain and other countries.
As the official first day of summer, the solstice is a time of celebration. Cities around the world will mark the day with spiritual and secular celebrations, like this yoga festival in New York's Times Square, expected to draw thousands for some mid-city, summer realignment.