Winter is upon us.
While there may already be a chill in the air, the official, astrological start to the season won’t be until later this month when winter solstice arrives.
As the earth spins on its axis, the different hemispheres get closer, or further from the sun. When the Northern Hemisphere is at its furthest point, the winter solstice arrives, making for an extraordinarily short number of daylight hours.
Less daylight does not always mean colder temperatures though, in fact, for many places in the US there is a weeks-long gap between the winter solstice and the coldest day of the year.
Here’s everything else you should know ahead of this year’s winter solstice including how to celebrate, and when the sun will set.
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What day is the winter solstice 2022?
This year winter solstice will take place Wednesday, Dec. 21.
What is the winter solstice 2022 sunset time?
In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun will set on winter solstice at 4:47 pm ET.
All across the globe, the solstice can be experienced at the same moment, as the sun’s rays will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, a latitudinal line that lies south of the equator.
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What is the winter solstice?
The winter solstice marks the official beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. In accordance with the astrological calendar, it will fall this year on Dec. 21. It is also the shortest day of the year, with the sun often setting before 5 pm.
After the winter solstice the days begin to grow longer, offering more and more hours of sunlight until the calendar reached the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.
Because the days begin to lengthen, in some cultures the winter solstice signifies a holiday of renewal and fresh beginnings.
Is winter solstice always on the same day?
In the Northern Hemisphere the winter solstice occurs each year on one of two days: December 21 or 22. It signifies the point at which the Northern hemisphere is tilted farthest from the sun, making it colder with less light.
Winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere coincides down to the instant with Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, as we tilt away from the sun, they tilt towards it.
Summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere occurs June 20 or 21. In 2023 it will be Wednesday, June 21.
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What are some winter solstice rituals?
Among the most famed solstice celebrations is a gather that occurs at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Stonehenge was built as a monument to the alignment of the sun and moon. There, hundreds of worshipers convene each year to celebrate the winter solstice.
In China, winter solstice coincides with Dongzhi, a holiday meant to usher in the positive energy of the coming year. “Dong Zhi” translates literally to “Winter Arrives” and is celebrated by families coming together to enjoy a meal and sharing wishes and hopes for the new year.
For Iranians, this is also “Shab-e Yalda,” a holiday which celebrates Mithra, the Sun God, and her victory over darkness. Traditions involve sharing a special meal, burning fires, performing acts of charity, and sometimes staying up until sunrise to celebrate the return of light.
In Peru, which celebrates the winter solstice in June, along with the rest of the Southern Hemisphere, Inti Raymi or “sun festival” in Quechua is a way for people to honor Inti the god of sun. With deep origins in Incan tradition, the holiday was banned after the Spanish conquest, but given new life in the 20th century, and still celebrated today.
Right here in the United States, the Zuni, a Native American Pueblo tribe in western New Mexico, celebrate the winter solstice as the start of the year, performing Shalako, a ceremonial dance. The Pekwin, or “Sun Priest” will signal the exact moment when the sun is reborn, and then the dance commences.
In Nothern Arizona, another indigenous community the Hopi tribe marks the winter solstice with the celebration of “Soyal” an all-night ceremony which commences after the “Sun Chief” announces the setting of the sun.
How you can celebrate winter solstice
Winter solstice can be celebrated in all different ways depending on your culture, and your family’s traditions.
If you don’t have a particular holiday that aligns with the date, Sunset magazine lists these easy ways to mark the solstice, based on Nordic and Pagan tradition:
- Build a yule altar
- Decorate a yule tree, or make a wreath
- Exchange gifts made from nature
- Spend time outdoors
- Light lots of candles
What happens at winter solstice?
Winter solstice occurs at the same instant all across the Northern Hemisphere and coincides exactly with summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, marking the beginning of each astrological season for the different parts of the globe.
On that day, the Northern Hemisphere will experience less than 12 hours of sunlight, the shortest amount all year, while the Southern Hemisphere will experience more than 12 hours, the longest amount.
Why is the winter solstice so important?
Since before recorded history, different cultures have celebrated winter solstice, The History Channel reports.
Many of those ancient traditions have endured into the modern day, or inspired iterations that take the form of holidays we now know well. Saturnalia, for example, an ancient Roman solstice celebration can be thanked for some Christmas traditions, and St. Lucia’s Day, a festival of lights in Scandinavia traces back to a Norse solstice holiday.
Story Credit: usatoday.com