Blogs

Winter Solstice 2020: When Is It, And What Is It?

Winter Solstice 2020: When Is It, And What Is It?
The winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere occurs on Monday, December 21, 2020 at 5:02 a.m. EST.

Posted by Theresa Koch

What Is the Winter Solstice?

It’s the astronomical moment when the Sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, we have our shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere in terms of daylight. Regardless of what the weather is doing outside your window, the solstice marks the official start of winter.

What’s in store for winter weather? Read our extended forecast!

What is Does “Solstice” Mean?

The term “solstice” comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) because, during the solstice, the angle between the Sun’s rays and the plane of the Earth’s equator (called declination) appears to stand still.

So what does that mean, exactly? Upon the winter solstice, the Sun appears at its lowest in the sky, and its noontime elevation seems to stay the same for several days before and after this day. The Sun’s gradual decrease in the sky reverses upon the winter solstice, marking what many cultures believe to be a “rebirth” of the Sun as the hours of daylight become longer.

Essentially, our hours of daylight—the period of time each day between sunrise and sunset—have been growing slightly shorter each day since the summer solstice last June, which is the longest day of the year (at least in terms of light). After December 21, the days will begin to grow longer and will continue to do so until we reach the summer solstice again, and begin the whole cycle anew.

While we celebrate the winter solstice, those living in the Southern Hemisphere will be simultaneously marking the Summer Solstice. That’s because while our half of the globe is inclined away from the Sun, their half is inclined toward it. Being tilted away from the Sun brings us shorter days and colder temperatures.

Early man kept track of the days by observing the Sun as it “moved” across the sky and cast shadows during the day and at different times of the year.  In fact, historians believe Stonehenge in England was erected to keep track of the Sun’s yearly progress.

Winter Solstice Folklore and Celebrations

The Winter Solstice has played an important role in cultures worldwide from ancient times until today. In fact, many of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with Christmas are actually associated with Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient Pagan cultures.

Alban Arthan

Welsh for “Light of Winter,” Alban Arthan is a universal festival, which has been (and still is) celebrated by many people and is probably the oldest seasonal festival of humankind. In Druidic traditions, the Winter Solstice is thought of as a time of death and rebirth when Nature’s powers and our own souls are renewed. It marks the moment in time when the Old Sun dies (at dusk on the 21st of December) and when the Sun of the New Year is born (at dawn on the 22nd of December), framing the longest night of the year. The birth of the New Sun is thought to revive the Earth’s aura in mystical ways, giving a new lease on life to spirits and souls of the dead. The prehistoric monument, Newgrange built in Ireland around 3200 B.C. (making it older than Stonehenge), is associated with the Alban Arthan festival. The site consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway and interior chambers. When the Sun rises, the chamber is flooded with sunlight on the Winter Solstice. What Stonehenge is for Alban Hefin (The Druid festival for The Summer Solstice), Newgrange is for Alban Arthan.

The Feast of Juul

This was a festival observed in Scandinavia when fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning Sun. A Yule—or Juul—log was brought in and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god, Thor. It was Thor’s job to bring the Sun’s warmth back to the people. The log, which was never allowed to burn entirely, was kept as both a token of good luck against misfortune and used as kindling for the following year’s log. In England, Germany, France, and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and spread into the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night, or worn around the neck as a charm. French peasants would place the cooled ashes from the log under their beds, believing they would protect the house against thunder and lightning. The present-day custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas is believed to have originated with these fires associated with the Feast of Juul.

Dongzhi Winter Solstice Festival

In addition to the traditions from western cultures, the Dongzhi Winter Solstice Festival is celebrated as a time for the entire family to get together to celebrate the past good year. As ancient Chinese thought, the yang, or muscular, positive things will become stronger and stronger after this day, so it should be celebrated. Dumplings are usually eaten.

Saturnalia

In Ancient Rome, the Winter Solstice festival referred to as Saturnalia began on December 17 and lasted for seven days. It was held to honor Saturnus, the Roman god of agriculture and harvest, and was characterized by the suspension of discipline and reversal of the usual order. Grudges and quarrels were forgiven, wars were postponed, and people engaged in carnival-like festivities. The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the third and fourth centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, some of the festival’s customs have influenced our current celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, check your noontime shadow around the time of the solstice: It will be your longest noontime shadow of the year. Conversely, in June, at the time of the summer solstice, you’ll see your shortest noontime shadow. This is because the Sun is at different angles. The Sun’s low arc across the sky in winter causes you to cast a longer shadow.

Comments
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Recent Blogs

Theresa Koch
I'm a superhero.Like most superheroes, I’ve learned to keep my powers hidden and quiet. On...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
One day, a man set out on horseback to visit his three sisters. However, because he was exhausted fr...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
Space Clearing in Feng Shui refers to the things you can do to create a more peaceful environment in...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
A very long time ago, when humans and spirits still intermingled freely, a Chinese scholar decided t...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
Chakras are an ancient model of the human energy field that extends beyond the physical bo...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
In the basement of a University of Pennsylvania engineering building, Mohsen Azadi and his labmates ...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
A long time ago, a shepherd and his wife lived near the base of a great mountain. The young couple w...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
Answer:  Camping late at night in the woods and telling stories around a fire is a rite of pass...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
Benefits of Rose Water usage :This rose water is completely chemical-free, made using just distilled...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Marie
Life Path Number CalculatorPythagorean Numerology System    Results for 8/19/1950 ... ...
Posted by Marie

Theresa Koch
If you explore the sacred texts of Irish mythology, listen to Pagan storytelling, or connect with th...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
Once upon a time, a man lived with his three sons on the outskirts of town. They lived well and happ...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
Despite the fact that stress has adverse effects on our life, we still deny admitting that this coul...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
In 2016, hygge took the world by storm. While the far-flung fervor over this Danish notion of c...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
“I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I ...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
If you open a book of folklore from Slavic and Russian traditions, you may come across the fairytale...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
Back when humans and animals were friends, and magic was an indisputable part of everyday life, ther...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
How can I find peace of mind? It’s a question often asked, but rarely answered in a satisfying...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
And the Stillness of Winter…We turn inward to face ourselves in the shadow of the year. This ...
Posted by Theresa Koch

Theresa Koch
2021 is a year of the Ox, starting from February 12th, 2021 (Chinese lunar New Year Day) a...
Posted by Theresa Koch

This website is powered by Spruz