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December Solstice – December 21

Happy Winter Solstice! I feel pretty safe speaking for most people when I express that I’m definitely getting tired of the super short days. If you love that time of year when it’s been midnight for 3 hours but you check the time and it’s only 6pm then kudos to you, you’re stronger than me. The shortest day of the year and the first day of winter don’t always fall on the same day, but this year they do!

The winter solstice can fall on December 20, 21, 22, or 23, but precise time of the winter solstice in 2020 appears to be forecast as 4:02AM on Monday December 21. A neat fact I learned while researching this is that since solstices occur on opposite sides of the equator, the opposite side of the world experiences their summer solstice at the same time. While we have our shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere in December, the other side of the world has their shortest in June.

The short version of why the date rotates over the span of 4 days but most frequently falls on 12/22 and 12/22 is that the Gregorian year of 365 days and the Tropical year (how long the Earth takes to orbit the sun) aren’t 100% in sync. This is also how we get leap years.

Besides Christmas, there are also a number of other celebrations that have long been associated with the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. Among them you’ll find celebrations of Saturnalia, Yule, Toji, Shab-e Yalda, and more. Given the raging pandemic this year, I hope that no matter what you do to mark the solstice and transition into official winter, that you do it in a safe and healthy manner.

Sources:
Time and Date
History Channel

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