How much do you know about summer solstice?

Estimated Completion Time
4 min
How much do you know about summer solstice?
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

From its pagan and its religious roots to the mystery of Stonehenge and other ancient sites, the summer solstice has meant many things to many people on this planet. See how much you know about when and why the summer solstice happens, and why it's been considered a magical time of the year.
The summer solstice happens on what day of the year?
March 20
June 21
September 23
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The summer solstice usually happens on June 21, give or take a day or two, every year.

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The summer solstice is the ____ day of the year.
longest
shortest
warmest
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The summer solstice is the beginning of summer, and is the longest day of the year.

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In the U.S., the summer solstice is the beginning of what season?
autumn
summer
winter
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

In North America, the summer solstice is the beginning of summer.

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In places that are north of the Arctic Circle, like northern Alaska, the sun doesn't set below the horizon for 24 hours on the solstice. What's the phenomenon known as?
the Aurora Borealis
midnight sun
the Transit of Venus
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The phenomenon is called the "midnight sun," when the sun never sets below the horizon for a period of time during the summer months.

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The summer solstice kicked off the countdown to what ancient Greek event?
the chariot races
the circus games
the Olympics
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The summer solstice, to the ancient Greeks, began the 30-day countdown to the Olympics. Originally just one day, the event was expanded to span five days of events including boxing, equestrian, javelin, long jump, pankration, running and shot put. The circus games, chariot races and "sea battles" were all games played in the Colosseum during the Roman Empire.

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Why does the Northern Hemisphere get so much sun on the summer solstice and through the summer?
the Earth tilts toward the sun
the Earth is in retrograde
the Earth's rotation slows down
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Why so much sun in the summertime? That's what happens when the Earth is facing and tilted toward the sun.

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According to Chinese tradition, the Dōngzhì festival is the celebration of the winter solstice, and the "yang." What does the summer solstice celebrate?
qi
shu
yin
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The opposite of the Dōngzhì festival is Duanwu, the celebration of "yin" that happens near the summer solstice.

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Which is not another name for the pair of solstices, summer and winter?
first point of Cancer and first point of Capricorn
June solstice and December solstice
these are all names for the solstices
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The pair, summer solstice and winter solstice, are also called the June solstice and December solstice, North and Southern solstices, as well as the astrological-derived first point of Cancer and first point of Capricorn.

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Which festival, paying tribute to the goddess Vesta, was celebrated by the ancient Romans in the days leading up to the summer solstice?
Saturnalia
Vestalia
Yuletide
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The ancient Romans celebrated their goddess of the hearth, Vesta, during their Vestalia festival, which lasted over the few days prior to the summer solstice.

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Where in the U.S. is there an annual tradition of a baseball game, kicked off at 10:30 p.m. local time and played with nothing but natural light?
Fairbanks, Alaska
Portland, Oregon
Seattle, Washington
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Known as the Midnight Sun Game, Fairbanks, Alaska, plays a regulation game of baseball -- with no artificial lights -- that begins at 10:30 p.m. and continues beyond midnight.

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When the summer solstice occurs in the Northern Hemisphere, what occurs in the Southern Hemisphere?
the fall equinox
the spring equinox
the winter solstice
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Above the equator is the Northern Hemisphere, while below it is the Southern Hemisphere. The seasons are reversed. When it's summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere it's the opposite -- the winter solstice -- in the Southern.

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The summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of ____?
Cancer
Capricorn
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Earth's axis of rotation -- the path it takes around the sun -- is tilted at 23.5 degrees. It's this tilt that gives our planet its seasons. When the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, which is located 23.5 degrees north of the equator, it's the summer solstice for Americans. When it's directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, it's the winter solstice.

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Which is commonly a part of Midsummer celebrations?
a decorated maypole
a dozen hand-dyed eggs
a jack-o'-lantern
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Dancing around the maypole, a tall pole decorated with greenery and flowers, is a popular summer solstice tradition in countries around the world.

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On the day of the summer solstice, the sun never sets where?
at the Arctic Circle
at the Tropic of Cancer
at the Tropic of Capricorn
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you were visiting the Arctic Circle (at roughly 66.6 degrees north latitude, around the North Pole) on the day of the summer solstice, you'd see the sun along the horizon, but it never sets.

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What is a common Litha tradition?
bonfires
eating eggs
performing a sacrifice
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Litha celebrations are known for their bonfires, either on the eve of or on the day of. For some, it's the fire that brings luck, while others use the ashes for protection and other benefits.

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Which is a popular gathering place for celebrating the summer solstice in Germany?
Ayers Rock (Uluru)
Devil's Tower
Externsteine
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

A 20-inch round window above what's called the "altar stone" in the Externsteine is aligned with the sun during sunrise of the summer solstice. But, the purpose of Externsteine, an enormous rock formation near Horn-Bad Meinberg, Germany, remains a mystery.

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On the morning of the summer solstice, the sun rises above which horizon?
the northern horizon
the southern horizon
the eastern horizon
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The sun rises over the eastern horizon, on the day of the summer solstice and every day.

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The purpose of Stonehenge is not yet understood, so why do people visit it on the solstice?
to watch the sun rise above the Heel Stone
to watch the sun set below the Heel Stone
to watch the sun set below Trilithon
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

If you stand in the right spot inside Stonehenge, you can watch the sun rise over the stone known as the Heel Stone. On the winter solstice, people gather to watch the sun set below the part of Stonehenge called the Trilithon.

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Solstices are often days of celebration. Worldwide, which is another name for the day of the summer solstice?
Midsummer Day
St. John's Day
all of these
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Many countries around the world celebrate the summer solstice, and it has a different name depending on which country you're in. A few common names are Litha, Midsummer Day and St. John's Day -- and all occur on or within a few days of the solstice.

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Is Earth the only planet that has a summer solstice?
yes
no
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Nope! Earth isn't the only planet in our solar system that has a solstice. Mars, our planet's neighbor, for instance, also has solstices. And the seasons on Jupiter change so slowly, each one lasts about three years.

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At the equator, all days of the year have the same number of daylight hours and nighttime hours. When else, except at the equator, does that happen during the year?
during Daylight Saving Time
on the spring and fall equinoxes
when Mercury is in retrograde
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

When you're at the equator all days have the same hours of light and dark. Elsewhere on our planet that only happens on the spring (called "vernal") and fall (called "autumnal") equinoxes.

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Midsummer is considered magical, and the tradition in Sweden on Midsummer night is for all the single ladies and girls to place what under their pillow?
bonfire ashes
flowers
herring
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

According to tradition, placing flowers (some say seven, others say nine) under your pillow, if you're unmarried, to dream about your future spouse.

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Which of the four elements is traditionally associated with summer solstice?
earth
fire
water
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Fire, as bonfires or in fire festivals, is typically used in celebrating on the summer solstice.

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How tall is your shadow at noon on the day of the summer solstice?
the shortest it'll be all year
exactly your height
exactly half your height
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

On the longest day of the year, the shadow you cast at noon is the shortest shadow you'll have all year.

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What does summer "solstice" mean?
the sun stops in the sky
the sun falls from the sky
tourist season
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The summer "solstice" is when, according to its Latin roots, the sun stops in the sky.

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Where in the U.S. is the summer solstice celebrated with traditional oven-baked pancakes, strawberry shortcake and bonfires of Juhannus?
the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, Washington
Kaleva, Michigan
Tucson, Arizona
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Juhannus is the traditional Finnish Midsummer celebration. It's also been celebrated in Kaleva, Michigan, since the turn of the 20th century, when Finnish immigrants settled in the area.

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Where in the U.S. is the summer solstice celebrated with a walk through a giant Earth Labyrinth, as well as events with healers and musicians?
atop Casper Mountain in Wyoming
Tucson, Arizona
the Arctic Circle
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Tucson, Arizona, celebrates the summer solstice with the Earth Walk Solstice festival, which has featured events including a giant labrynth.

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Is it true you can balance an egg upright on your kitchen table on the day of the solstice?
yes, it's a magical day if you're an egg
yes, but you can do that every day
no, but you can on the autumn and spring equinoxes
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Yes, you can balance an egg on a flat surface on the day of the summer solstice -- and the winter solstice, both equinoxes and every other day of the year. It doesn't have anything to do with the Earth's axis. It does have to do with weighing down the bottom of the egg: shaking the egg, place it in the carton to settle, and then stand it up.

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The summer solstice marked the start of a new calendar year for which civilization?
the Athenians
the ancient Greeks
Victorian England
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

It was the ancient Greeks whose new year coincided with the summer solstice. Today we follow the Gregorian calendar.

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Which ancient civilization of the Americas used their Temple of the Sun to honor their sun god, Inti?
Inca
Maya
Puebloan
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Inca celebrated their sun god, Inti, at the Temple of the Sun on the summer and winter solstices. The design of the temple is such that the sun's rays shine through a window at sunrise on the summer solstice.

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What type of seed should you rub on your eyes if you want to see faeries on midsummer's evening?
fern
love-in-idleness
mustard
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

In European pagan tradition, rubbing fern seeds on your eyelids might help you see faeries on a midsummer's night.

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More than 700 cities in 120 countries celebrate what on the day of the summer solstice?
Fête de la Musique (Make Music Day)
World Philosophy Day
World Poetry Day
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Since 1982 when it began in France, the Fête de la Musique, or Make Music Day, is celebrated on the summer solstice.

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Is the summer solstice the start of summer?
yes
no
it depends how you look at it
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Summer, it turns, out, depends on your perspective. To astronomers, yes, the summer solstice marks the beginning of the astronomical summer. But when it comes to summer weather, meteorologists kick summer off as of June 1, based on annual temperature cycles.

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Which has become a summer solstice tradition at Times Square in New York City?
a culinary festival
a day-long yoga event
stargazing
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Solstice in Times Square is a day-long yoga event on the day of the summer solstice, beginning with sun salutations in the morning and continuing until sunset. It's been going on for more than a decade and was also named the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations.

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There is a set of petroglyphs, known as the Sun Dagger, carved into a cliff in Chaco canyon. What happens to the petroglyphs at summer solstice?
light hits the center of a small spiral petroglyph
light hits the center of the main spiral petroglyph
light surrounds the main spiral petroglyph
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

At the top of Fajada Butte in northwest New Mexico you'll find the Sun Dagger, a set of petroglyphs. On summer solstice, a beam of sunlight hits the center of the main spiral petroglyph.

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