December Solstice to Mark Beginning of Winter


Sparkling snow and low sun over the horizon. | Image by Shutterstock

This year’s winter solstice and the first day of winter will both fall on December 21. The following day will be recognized as the first full day of winter. Of course, this is no guarantee that coats and scarves will not be needed much sooner than that.

While the day marks what is known as “astronomical winter,” meteorological winter will occur on December 1. The astronomical and meteorological seasons will last for about three months.

This year’s winter solstice will occur at 4:48 p.m. ET on December 21, according to the National Weather Service.

The winter solstice, or hibernal solstice, is the astronomical moment when the Sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, its southernmost point in the sky. This is the moment that the northern hemisphere is pointed the furthest away from the Sun. The southern hemisphere experiences the exact opposite as the day brings about its summer solstice.

This results in the shortest day of the year with 8 hours and 46 minutes of daylight. This is followed by the longest night of the year with just over 13 hours of darkness. On the contrary, the summer solstice, which occurred on June 21, marked the start of days becoming shorter.

The good news for those seeking the Sun’s warmth is that daylight hours after December 21 will progressively increase over time.

The term “solstice” originates from the Latin words sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still), according to The Farmer’s Almanac. On the solstice, the angle between the Sun’s rays and the plane of the Earth’s equator appears to stand still.

The Sun will then advance to the north after the solstice concludes, until the summer solstice when the cycle will begin again, according to NBC 5.

The next astronomical season change will occur with the vernal equinox — when day and night are of equal length — on March 23, 2023.

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