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MAIN Arrow to Home LifeHome Life Arrow to HolidaysWinter Fun Guide Arrow to Winter SolsticeWinter Solstice

winter solstice is the shortest day of the yearThe December solstice marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the next winter solstice occurs on Wednesday, December 21, 2022 at 4:48 PM ET.


All about the Winter Solstice

While the beginning of summer marks the longest day of the year, the winter solstice brings the shortest day - and the longest night! - of the year.

The reason for the different seasons is that while the earth rotates around the sun, it also spins on its axis, which is tilted some 23.5 degrees. Because of this tilt, the Northern Hemisphere receives less direct sunlight and the Southern Hemisphere receives more (and vice versa) depending on the season.


Fighting the darkness - winter solstice celebrations in ancient times

yule logIn many pre-Christian cultures, December was considered the most dreaded time of year, when the lack of heat and light spelled danger. The cold was stark and the darkness seemed like it would last forever.

So the winter solstice gave rise to many symbols, ancient myths and religious beliefs over the centuries.

To beat the ancient winter blues, Rome celebrated at the feast of Saturnalia.

In pre-christian Britain, the end of December centered around the pagan Yule log in a fiery display to warm the heart during a cold and dreary winter.

With the advent of Christianity, a similar response to winter doldrums was the celebration of Christmas by cultures around the world complete with twinkling lights, holiday feasts & lively festivals.


Winter solstice celebrations today

Even today, modern science points to a disorder that is now officially recognized as SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, that results in moodiness or depression during the winter months due to the lack of sunlight.

The cure? Turn up the wattage! — indeed, the use of artificial light is the only known treatment for SAD.



Crowds gather every year to watch the ethereal glow of a light beam through Keyhole Arch
on Big Sur's Pfieffer Beach, CA that only happens around the time of the winter solstice.


Communal celebrations also help fight the winter blues, such as the annual winter solstice gathering at Stonehenge, or at the Winter Solstice Celebration at Cathedral St. John the Divine in New York City -- or the bright and colorful California Revels that happen in Oakland CA every year.

And as the old wise man once said: it truly is darkest before the dawn. After the winter solstice, the light slowly begins its inevitable return, and the days begin to grow blessedly longer, flipping the switch to ON for the inevitable countdown to spring ...


also see -> Winter Solstice - History, Science & Celebration

 

More about winter solstice around the Web:

Winter Solstice - Wikipedia - Everything you always wanted to know including how different cultures celebrate, a complete table calculating dates and times each year, plus related photos and resources.

The Winter Solstice and Winter Holidays - Interesting overview on how the winter solstice influenced ancient Greece, Roman and Mideastern holidays.


 
 

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