10 things about the Winter Solstice that you might not have known
- The term solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning ‘the Sun stands still’ (the time when the sun seems to stand still, either in Cancer or in Capricorn, the (summer or winter) solstice). This is because on this day, the Sun reaches its southern-most position as seen from the Earth. The Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction. It’s also common to call it the day the Sun turns around.
- If you live in the Northern Hemisphere then it is the Winter Solstice is shortest day of the year but in the Southern Hemisphere it is the Summer Solstice and it is the longest day of the year.
- Most people are under the impression that the whole day is considered the Winter Solstice. But the Solstice is at a specific moment in time and that’s when the sun is exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. In Waterford the solstice is Sunday, 22 December 2019, 04:19am. Check out what time the Winter Solstice is where you live!
- Everyone thinks that the Winter Solstice falls on the same date every year but it changes. The Winter Solstice can fall on December 20th, 21st, 22nd or 23rd, though December 20th or 23rd solstices are rare. The last Winter Solstice to fall on December 23rd was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303
- Solstices take place twice a year. The Summer Solstice takes place around June 21st and then again around December 21st. With the Summer Solstice, the Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere, while with the Winter Solstice, the Sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. What are seasons?
- In the Northern Hemisphere, astronomers and scientists use the Winter Solstice as the start of winter, which ends on the March Equinox. For meteorologists, on the other hand, winter began three weeks earlier on December 1st.
- During winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is actually closest to the Sun. Different seasons are not defined by how far the Earth is from the Sun. Seasons occur because Earth orbits the Sun on a slant or tilt. It’s because of this that different amounts of sunlight reach the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, causing variation in temperatures and weather patterns throughout the year. The fact is that Earth is closest to the sun just a few weeks after the Winter Solstice
- The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight, but it doesn’t have the latest sunrise or the earliest sunset of the year. This is because of a difference between our modern day timekeeping methods and how time is measured using the Sun. Astronomers call this difference the equation of time.
- If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the increase rate of daylight hours depends on your location’s latitude. The more north you are the more you will see a rapid increase in daylight hours.
- Many cultures around the world hold feasts and celebrate holidays around the December Solstice. In modern times Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, which falls on December 25th.It is believed that the date for Christmas was chosen to offset pagan celebrations. Christmas is also referred to as Yule, which is derived from the Norse word jól, referring to the pre-Christian winter solstice festival.