The winter solstice is the day of the year when we have the shortest day and the longest night, and it marks the official start of winter. But there’s so much more to this ancient day.
While we’re all scrambling to put together the last bits we need for the holiday season, it’s easy to forget there’s another event to celebrate, the shortest day of the year in 2022, the winter solstice. The winter solstice is the day of the year when we have the shortest day and the longest night, and it marks the official start of winter. Now, with it just around the corner, here are five cool facts about the winter solstice to share with the kids.
1. “Solstice” is a Latin word and has an interesting, astrological meaning.
According to The Farmer’s Almanac, “solstice” comes from the Latin words sol and sister, which means Sun and to stand still, respectively.
“During the solstice, the angle between the Sun’s rays and the plane of the Earth’s equator (called declination) appears to stand still,” the publication says.
2. The winter solstice is over nearly as quickly as it starts.
While many of us think of the solstice as something that lasts a full day, it’s just a blip in time. Winter solstice is this year takes place on Wednesday, December 21, 2022, at 4:48 p.m. EST for the Northern Hemisphere, The Farmer’s Almanac says.
3. When we celebrate the winter solstice, the other side of the world doesn’t.
It’s not often we think about this, but when we’re experiencing winter solstice, the other half of the world — the Southern Hemisphere — will be marking its summer solstice.
“That’s because while our half of the globe is inclined away from the Sun, their half is inclined toward it,” The Farmer’s Almanac writes. “Being tilted away from the Sun brings us shorter days and colder temperatures.”
4. The winter solstice is rooted in ancient history.
According to History.com, winter solstice has been celebrated for a long time all over the world. “Cultures around the world have long held feasts and celebrated holidays around the winter solstice,” the publication writes. “Fire and light are traditional symbols of celebrations held on the darkest day of the year.”
TimeandDate.com notes that even our modern idea of Christmas is likely rooted in ancient beliefs about the winter solstice. “Christmas is also referred to as Yule, which is derived from the Norse word jól, referring to the pre-Christian winter solstice festival,” the publication writes.
5. The winter solstice is 9 hours shorter (!) than the longest day of the year.
The UK’s national weather service says the winter solstice is almost nine hours shorter than the year's longest day.
“The summer solstice in June is just short of 16 hours and 38 minutes long,” the agency writes, “while on the day of the winter solstice, the length of the day is a mere 7 hours and 50 minutes.”