A Minor Retrospective: The Winter Solstice and Longer Days Ahead

Keilianette DeJesus, Student journalist

Longest Night Of the Year

At the Winter Solstice, the wind is cold, trees are bare, and all lies in stillness beneath blankets of snow.~ Gary Zukav
Winter solstice occurs in December for the northern hemisphere (bottom right), and June for the southern hemisphere (top right). 

Wednesday December 21st marked the Winter Solstice (latin: ‘solstitium’ meaning ‘sun standing still’) as the sun traveled through the sky, and daylight shortened, thus beginning the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice occurs not only a specific day but a specific time on eastern standard time, at 4:48 pm. 

According to Washington’s Green Grocer Market blog, astronomical activities had been regularly used to determine manual activities, such as “the mating of animals, the sowing of crops, and the monitoring of winter reserves of food.”  Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from the Solstice. Marking the Solstice became essential as agrarian cultures physically and economically depended on tracking the development of the seasons.  Most farm animals were slaughtered in order to avoid difficult winter feeding, so fresh and nutritious meat became more available at a time when it was most necessary. 

Ancient cultures viewed this day as a time of death and rebirth, as the threat of starvation loomed during the winter months.

Interestingly, the blog also notes that “It’s no coincidence that Christmas Day coincides with the Winter Solstice. The birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on December 25 – many believe that the birth of the “true light of the world” was set in synchronization with the December solstice because from that point onwards, the days began to have more daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Check your calendars and stay tuned for more light each successive day–at least until June’s Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year!