The first day of the winter season occurs when the Sun is farthest south at noon on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22. This day is known as the Winter Solstice. The term solstice means “sun stands still.” As the Earth rotates on its tilted axis and circles the sun each year, the sun appears to change its position very little during this time of the year.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this year the winter solstice will occur the earliest since 1896 on Friday, Dec. 21, at 6:12 p.m. EST which marks the day with the least hours of daylight or the longest day of the year for those living in the northern hemisphere. The December solstice is also known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere.
According to timeanddate.com, the December solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south receive 24 hours of daylight. Those living or traveling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year, while those living or traveling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.
In the northern hemisphere, the December solstice occurs during the coldest season of the year with the first day of winter occurring the same day. Although winter is regarded as the season of dormancy, darkness and cold, this time also brings to mind this hopeful statement, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind.” To many people, this return of the light as the days get longer has been a reason to celebrate nature’s continuing cycle. Click here to read another article related to the changing seasons.
Most remarkably this year’s winter solstice occurs five days after the last day of Hanukkah, or the festival of lights. To read a related article regarding the Festival of Lights and the Light of the World, click here. A few years ago an observation on the winter solstice inspired this poem which has implications for today.
And there will be signs in the sun; and in the moon,
and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations,
with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;
In the clear azure of the Eastern sky
Arises the winter solstice with its signs,
Marking out the shortest day of the year:
A full moonstone pin sets off Dawn’s chiffon dress;
Like a sparkling diamond set in the ear,
A brilliant nova lingers to impress.
Wonders appear to those with eyes to see.
Out of darkness has emerged a great light,
Revealing a more sure word of prophecy.
Until the day star shall arise in our hearts,
Let us fix our eyes toward the Eastern sky
And look up, for our redemption draws nigh.
Let us not just see signs each season brings
But understand the meaning of these things.
From Stone upon Stone: Psalms of Remembrance
Click here to view a slide show of photos taken on the Winter Solstice from scenes across the world.