The days are getting shorter, the nights are drawing in, and the Winter Solstice is just a a week away. It may feel like the days can’t get any shorter, but we still haven’t yet reached the winter solstice , which is the shortest day of the year.
The solstice marks the moment the sun shines at its most southern point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.
The world might look pretty grim now, but remember: as soon as the solstice has passed, the days will start getting longer again and you can start looking forward to Spring.
Here’s your guide to the darkest day of the year – and a few reasons to be cheerful about it.
What is the winter solstice?
The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the official beginning of winter.
The solstice itself is the moment the sun is shining farthest to the south, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.
When is the Winter Solstice?
The date of the winter solstice is different every year, falling between December 20th and 23rd.
This year, the solstice will occur on Wednesday, December 21. The sun will rise in the UK at 08:04 GMT and set at 15:54 GMT, giving just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.
Traditions and rituals
The winter solstice is a major pagan festival, with rituals of rebirth having been celebrated for thousands of years.
Every year revellers gather at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the shortest day.
Many of the traditions we now think of as being part of Christmas – including Yule logs, mistletoe and Christmas trees – have their roots in the pagan celebrations of winter solstice.
Wait, the Christmas tree was originally a winter solstice tree?
Sort of. The Druids – the priests of the ancient Celts – used evergreen trees , holly and mistletoe as symbols of everlasting life during winter solstice rituals.
Cutting them down and putting them in their homes would have been too destructive to nature.
But when Saint Boniface, also known as Winfrith of Crediton, found a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree in 8th Century Germany, he cut the tree down.
Myth has it the converted pagans in the region returned the following year to decorate the fir tree.
Will the days start getting longer again?
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