What is The Winter Solstice?
The Winter Solstice falls on the 21st December each year. This is the 24 hour period during which we, in the Northern Hemisphere, will have the fewest hours of daylight of the whole year.
During the winter months the Earth’s North Pole is pointing away from the Sun which is why it is colder in the Northern hemisphere. In the Southern hemisphere it’s much warmer, making it their summertime.
So How Much Sunshine Can we Expect?
In London the Winter Solstice lasts for 7 hours 49 minutes and 41 seconds. In the North of Lapland (Finland), they only get around four hours of daylight on the Solstice. Can you imagine being in the dark for nearly 20 hours!
How is the Winter Solstice Celebrated?
Certain cultures celebrate the Winter solstice. For example, many Pagans and Druids travel to Stonehenge in Wiltshire each year on the 21st December. Archaeologists believe the English Heritage site was constructed between 3000BC and 2000BC specifically to point towards the winter solstice sunrise. The communities hold large celebrations on the day after the solstice to coincide with the sunrise. They often wear traditional costume and welcome in the new sun.
Yalda is an Iranian festival celebrated on the ‘longest and darkest night of the year,’ i.e. the night of the Northern Hermisphere’s winter solstice. Every year, on December 21st, Iranians celebrate the renewal of the sun with a big family get-together and all-night celebrations.
In Guatemala, those of Mayan heritage indulge in the ritual known as Palo Volador, or ‘flying pole dance’. Three men climb a 50-foot pole. One man beats a drum and plays a flute. The other two men wind a rope attached to the pole around one foot and jump. If they land on their feet, it is believed that the sun god will be pleased and that the days will start getting longer.
How will you celebrate the shortest day of the year? With some munchables, of course!