For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, the holiday season coincides with the shortening of the day and the lengthening of the evening hours. If you have driven home from work this past week and noticed that it was pitch black out at 6pm, you have probably noticed this phenomenon. We are slowly inching our way towards the Winter Solstice!
What is the Winter Solstice? Well, it is an astronomical event signifying the longest night and shortest day of the year. From the Summer Solstice (shortest night, longest day), the days gradually get shorter and shorter and the nights lengthen until the Winter Solstice. From that night on though, we inch back to longer days and shorter nights. It’s a phenomenon that captured the imagination of our ancestors for centuries. Care for some more information about the Winter Solstice?
The Winter Solstice occurs when the North Pole is the farthest away from the Sun. At this point, it is 23 degrees away. It is this positioning that causes the longer nights and shorter days in the Northern Hemisphere. Depending on how far away from the North Pole you are, you experience the Solstice differently. Days can range from 9.5 hours long farther away to as little daylight as… Well, 0. That's right, some places closer to the North Pole experience months with no sunrise!
The Winter Solstice does not happen on the same day every year. The time it takes for the Sun to be in the same spot relative to Earth does not line up exactly to a calendar year. Thus, the event happens on a different day. The normal range is December 20-23rd with the 21st and 22nd being the most common days. This year, it will be December 21st!
The Winter Solstice was often celebrated as a night of change and rebirth. It was celebrated in Ancient Rome as the Brumalia – a festival to honor Saturn and Ceres. The ancient Maya also observed it and had temples built that would align perfectly with the exact moment of the solstice. In Scandinavian and Germanic countries, Yule was observed as a midwinter celebration. It was the Christianization of Yule that influenced Christmas traditions as well as rebrand the term “Yule” to being synonymous with “Christmas.” There are even modern celebrations of the Winter Solstice such as the modern Druidic tradition of Alban Arthan. There is also the Dongzhi Festival celebrated in East Asian (especially China) where families come together and eat glutinous rice balls cooked in broth as well as dumplings.
The Winter Solstice is right around the corner. And, just after that, it will be Christmas, then New Years before you know it! If you’ve been spending too much on your celebrations this holiday season, don’t worry – why not check out our installment loans? You don’t have to spend much to observe this holiday, but however the Winter Solstice is celebrated, it’s still a fantastic astronomical phenomenon. So, perhaps this December 21st, light a candle or a little bonfire in honor of the longest night of the year!