If you have read Adorageek’s post on Equinox, then you know that our Earth actually rotates on a tilted axis. Winter solstice, or often called hibernal solstice or midwinter, occurs when Earth’s rotational axis, or its geographical Northern pole, is most greatly inclined away from Sun. On the winter solstice, Earth’s maximum axial tilt away from the Sun is 23.44°. This happens twice each year (once in the Northern hemisphere and once in the Southern hemisphere).
The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). This year, the winter solstice in Northern hemisphere occurs on 21 December 2018. The winter solstice day has the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest.
Winter solstice is celebrated by many cultures with holidays, festivals, and rituals. The common themes are rebirth and togetherness. In some cultures winter solstice is seen as the middle of winter, while in others it is seen as the beginning of winter. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening hours of daylight during the day.
Just like summer solstice, in Northern hemisphere, winter solstice is commonly celebrated by gathering at the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England to watch the sunrise. The Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument, built as a ring of standing stone at around 3000 to 2000 BC. It is believed that the Stonehenge was built to mark solstices and equinoxes. During winter solstice, the sun rises just over the Stonehenge’s Heel Stone.
If you are in England during the winter solstice, make sure to head to the Stonehenge to watch the sunrise! Just make sure to wear warm clothes! If you are not in England during the winter solstice, you could still celebrate it by getting together with families and friends. Light a fire, spend the longest night together, and rejoice when sunrise finally come.