Sustainable Downbeach: Understanding the winter solstice

Sustainable Downbeach: Understanding the winter solstice

December 21 is the shortest day of the year above the Earth's equator and the longest Down Under.

Technically, the solstice can happen any day between December 20 and December 23 because the calendars we use aren't the same length as a solar year.

Interestingly, the Western winter solstice is also observed in Iran, where families gather on "Yalda night" to eat nuts, pomegranates and watermelons and read poetry together in honour of the longest night.

That's because it marks the point when the sun's seasonal movement stops for a day, before it reverses and the amount of sunlight starts to change again. The word "sunturn" is also used to describe this event.

It is not the coldest days of winter, as the northern hemisphere continues to lose more heat than it gains. This festival has been celebrated around the world for thousands of years as a glimmer of hope for the future.

Winter solstice arrives 11:28 a.m.

What is the winter solstice, and why do we have it?

Eastern Time on Thursday, Dec. 21.

The winter and summer solstices, along with the equinoxes, have often played a large role in the myth and folklore of various cultures, USA Today reported.

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But the solstice doesn't come on the same day each year - it can range from 20-23 December and 20-22 June - because of the discrepancy between our calendar of 365 days a year and the solar year which actually measures 365.2422 days. This made it easy for the crossover from honoring pagan forces to worshipping Jesus and Christianity.

While the cold weather will remain going forward, you should start to notice the days will be longer after December 21.

The Yule log is one of the most anticipated factors of the celebration.

In the Lower 48, the sun is up for more than 10 hours across Florida and southern Texas, while states across the northern tier get under nine hours of daylight.

Starting Friday, the sun will be up for a few seconds longer each day, signaling the start of our slow but steady march toward spring. Hot baths are a way of life in Japan, and a common practice at the time of the winter solstice is to infuse the baths with yuzu, a fruit which is believed to ensure good health. It's winter, of course, and it officially begins on Thursday (just before the noon hour).

This day each year is known as the Winter Solstice.

Forecasters say more than half-a-foot of snow could be seen in northern New England, the northern great lakes and the northern plains before the end of the week.

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