Winter Solstice

Yes folks it’s that time of year again; the bleak midwinter, another equinox is upon us. Sunday 21st December 2014 is the Winter Solstice, also known as the shortest day.Photo of frozen leaf

In the northern hemisphere it is the shortest day and longest night, whereas in the southern hemisphere it is the opposite. The Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun, the furthest the North Pole gets from the sun, causing less than 12 hours of daylight in the north.

Photo of sunriseAs if all of these numbers weren’t confusing enough, the more observant of you will notice that the earliest sunset has been and gone and the mornings will continue to get darker. This is because the solar day doesn’t match the 24 hour day humans invented when they decided that clocks would be a good idea. Solar days are shortest in September and longest in December, clocking up an average of 30 seconds each day. So I hope that has explained that little phenomenon to your satisfaction.

Moving swiftly on. Nestling between Hanukkah and Christmas is the Pagan festival of Yule, celebrated during this equinox. A large log known as a Yule Log would be lit, taking approximately twelve days to burn, during which time feasting and merrymaking would ensue. The rebirth of the sun would be celebrated as the countdown to spring began.

Illustration hauling the Yule log

By Robert Chambers (The Book of Days (1864), p. 734.[1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You might also be interested in why we decorate our homes with holly and mistletoe in this post here.

 

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6 thoughts on “Winter Solstice

  1. Lovely post πŸ™‚ Also interesting, that while you may have had your shortest day, and us our longest, the weather is also a few months behind, with our hottest month being February, and in my day, January was way colder than December in the North of England. πŸ™‚

  2. Pingback: December Supermoon | rambling ratz

  3. Pingback: Winter is Here | rambling ratz

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