The Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice occurs on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 5:44 a.m. ET. But what does any part of that mean, and why should you care?
What is the winter solstice?
That is exactly what this explainer is going to tell you.
Okay, I like the sound of that. So what is it?
Good question. When you don’t know what a term means, it’s sometimes helpful to break it down into sections. Let’s break this one down into two sections: “winter” and “solstice.” (Pretty easy, right?) Winter, as we all know, is the coldest season. Winter has Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, and more. “Now is the winter of our discontent,” William Shakespeare once wrote, and boy, was he right.
“Solstice,” on the other hand, is a sun thing, which is the opposite.
Put together it’s: “winter solstice.” A beautiful clashing of ideals, a yin and a yang, a dangerous twist of fate that happens this year on Dec. 21, at 5:44 a.m. ET.
What happens during the winter solstice?
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “Winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year.” Uhh, excuse me — whaaat? To put that in layman’s terms, winter solstice is the dark day when big sunny boy goes g’bye-bye in the sky for so long that it’s just too much and everybody thinks so.
Where does the sun go during the winter solstice, and why is it afraid?
To be sure, the sun is not “afraid” during the winter solstice.
Oh, yeah? Then why does it hide?
It seems increasingly clear that I should let you know there is no record that taunting has ever added additional hours of sunlight to the winter solstice.
Is there anything we can do to bring the sun back after the solstice?
Without fail, at least so far, the sun has come back every year following the winter solstice. There is no real reason to worry about the sun not coming back this year. I know we’ve suffered a lot of broken promises lately, and I understand you have grown distrustful of the media, but, well, let me put it this way. There will be nothing you can do to bring the sun back if it goes away forever this year, so why bother worrying about it?
Now ask me if the shortest day of the year is also the coldest.
Is the shortest day of the year also the coldest?
As a matter of fact, it isn’t. According to National Geographic, “Lack of exposure to the sun's rays makes the winter solstice the darkest day of the year, but it's not the coldest.” Interesting!
Is there a winter solstice poem?
I don’t know one offhand, but I can compose one for you.
When cold winds of winter blow
the sun, the sun, where does she go?
The dark night comes as an auspice;
It’s time for the winter solstice.
That was nice.
So, that’s pretty much all I need to know about the winter solstice, right?