The science and culture of the summer solstice in 18 colorful images.
Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images.

The summer solstice is culture and science all wrapped up in one.

For some, it's a day to dress up in your "Silver Lake Shaman" best and throw a party. To science types, it's technically the days when our planet's rotational axis is most inclined toward the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, that happens every year on June 20-21 while in the Southern Hemisphere, it's Dec. 20-21.

In the U.S., the summer solstice is largely an unofficial holiday. But in many countries, like Sweden, it's a time for love. "A lot of children are born nine months after Midsummer in Sweden," according to Swedish ethnologist Jan-Öjvind Swahn.


For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is the longest day of the year. Here's how some have marked the moment.

Thousands started the day by making the trek to Stonehenge. It's widely believed the historic landmark was used to mark the occasion when the sun reaches its zenith in the sky.

Epic photography ensued.

Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images.

Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images.

Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images.

Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images.

June 21 also just happens to be the International Day of Yoga, giving people a chance to blend the two occasions.

Photo by Timothy Clary/Getty Images.

Photo by Timothy Clary/Getty Images.

Photo by Timothy Clary/Getty Images.

But science has a lot to say about solstices, too.

NASA dropped some fun facts.

And, of course, Neil deGrasse Tyson was there in signature fashion to get hilariously technical about it.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shared this incredible satellite view as the solstice formally made its way across the planet.

And here's a nice visual breakdown of seasonal changes:

While we're celebrating the sun, don't forget to respect its power. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan took a moment to encourage everyone stepping out to use sunscreen.

Not to be outdone by their Stonehenge neighbors, crowds gathered in Avebury, England, near another historic neolithic henge that has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, the tiny Russian village of Glubokovo is home to an ancient pagan ceremony, one of the oldest known summer solstice celebrations in the world. While most solstice events honor the rising sun, this annual affair flips the script to mark one of the year's shortest nights.

Photo by Andrei Borodulina/Getty Images.

Photo by Andrei Borodulina/Getty Images.

Photo by Andrei Borodulina/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, other people there decided it was the right time to heroically take a nap.

We salute you.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

As the world shifts on its axis, it's a time to reflect on our relationship with the only home we've got.

The return of summer months can be a welcome respite from a long, cold winter. Maybe you'll hit up a barbecue, do some yoga, or chant to your deity. Maybe it will just be another day. That's OK, too.

However you mark the occasion, there's no other day quite like it.

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Jeff Bridges photo by Gage Skidmore/Wikicommons

An image from Jeff Bridges' personal note on his website

Way to bury the lead, Jeff! Yesterday's news of Jeff Bridges' cancer remission revealed the beloved Hollywood icon also faced COVID 19, which had him hospitalized for over a month. This put many things on hold, including filming for his new FX thriller series Old Man.

Taking on chemotherapy is no easy task. Pile that onto losing smell, restricted breathing, and medical isolation, and anyone would want to throw in the towel. But for the ever optimistic Bridges, dealing with two health crises simultaneously became a beautiful life lesson, which he shared in a handwritten letter found on his website.


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