Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night, occurs every December. The date for the Winter Solstice varies from the 20th to the 23rd. The 21st and the 22nd being the two most common dates. 1903 was the last time that the Winter Solstice occurred on the 23rd, and it won’t happen again until 2303. It will not be occurring on the 20th until 2080. The reason for the different dates is due to the rotation of the earth, and the location of the setting and the rising sun. Also the fact that the Gregorian calendar which has 365 to 366 days each year is different from the Tropical year which consists of 365.242199 days. A Tropical Year is the length of time that the sun takes to return to the exact same spot that it was at a year ago.
While the Northern Hemisphere of the world welcomes the first real day of winter, the Southern Hemisphere will be welcoming the first day of summer. 2018’s Winter Solstice is unique due to the fact that there will be an almost full moon. A true full moon will not occur on the night of Winter Solstice until 2094.
Winter Solstice Traditions and Celebrations
The Winter Solstice is celebrated around the world in many different ways, and some of these rituals have been celebrated for centuries.
In Ireland, people gather around the Newgrange monument in Boyne Valley. The over 5,000-year-old stone monument consists of a 62-foot passageway that connects to a chamber. When the sun rises on the Winter Solstice the room fills with light. Every year people enter a lottery to be picked to stand in the room. In 2017 32,500 people entered the lottery, and only 60 were chosen to enter.
A tradition in Japan is a dip in a hot bath, filled with citrus fruits called yuzu. Even local zoos have started to place the fruits in the water that macaques, hippos and capybaras soak in.
Wiltshire, England is the home of Stonehenge and is one of the most popular places to welcome in the first day of winter. No one knows for certain why Stonehenge was built. One of the theories is that it was used as a temple to worship the sun because the stones are situated so perfectly that the sun shines through them as it rises and sets. Every year thousands of people, many of them druids and pagans, gather at Stonehenge on Winter Solstice.
Solstice derives from the Latin scientific term solstitium, containing sol, which means “sun,” and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning “to make stand.” Although “winter” has already begun in parts of the country, officially it begins on the winter solstice. Keep warm and enjoy the holiday season whether you are experiencing a true winter or in sunnier states like Florida. Happy Winter!