What is the Winter Solstice?

How is it caused?

What is the Winter Solstice?

Lauren Falardeau, Dedicated Writer

     The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, and this year it happens on Saturday December 21st. This is a great time for this event to happen because we will be off! Winter Solstice occurs because the earth rotates at an angle of 23.5 degrees relative to the direction of the sun, so the Winter Solstice is when the North Pole has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. As Wikipedia states ,̈winter solstice is the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.¨

During this event, the South Pole is tilted directly towards the sun, so the southern hemisphere is experiencing their summer solstice, the longest day of the year. If you were standing at the Arctic circle, at 66.5 degrees north latitude, the winter solstice is the single day of the year when the sun does not rise at all.  Places further north have even more days each year with no sunshine.  

    Here in Colorado the solstice represents the day when the sun is above the horizon for the shortest amount of time, and the sun reaches its lowest point as it moves across the sky. According to ̈Time and Date ̈ ,this year in Denver ,the day will be about nine hours and 21 minutes long with  sunrise at 7:17am, and sunset at 4:38pm on the winter solstice. The longest day of the year, The Summer Solstice, is about 14 hours long.

How do other countries celebrate this day?

     About half the people in the world celebrate the winter solstice. Some like to celebrate it with feasts or festivals and rituals. Others prefer a small get together. However, every country has a different name for the holiday and celebrates it differently.


     In China, the winter solstice is known as dong zhi, meaning the winter’s arrival. The people in China often make food such as dumplings

 and rice flour balls on this day. This is to symbolize harmoniousness and reunion. To them, the day marks the rising of yang, masculine and positive energy. They usually do things such as adjusting their diet to store yang energy. According to an article from ̈Eng-Shui-and-Beyond ̈, yang energy is considered masculine. Yang is very expanding, active, energetic, outward, and lighter (less dense). Unlike yin, yang is fast moving and expands outward.¨ Some believe this diet can help fight against illness.


     In India, The Winter Solstice is called Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti is celebrated each year in January. It is a festival toward the sun. It is marked as the end of the month and the gradual lengthening of days. 


     In Iran, The Winter Solstice is called Yalda Night. Yalda Night is known to be the longest and darkest night of the year. On this day families gather with one another. They usually go to the eldest ́s house and celebrate it by eating, drinking and reciting poetry. According to Wikipedia, ̈ Nuts, pomegranates and watermelons are particularly served during this festival.¨


     In Russia, they celebrate a day called Korochun. It is a pagan Slavic holiday. It was celebrated by pagan Slavs on December 21. On this day, people worship their ancestors. Western Slavs had fires at cemeteries to keep their loved ones warm. They organized feasts to honor the dead and keep them fed. 


     On the winter solstice the Japanese observe and celebrate tōji. They often celebrate this day by embracing the cold and enjoying a warm yuzu bath. A yuzu bath is a bath with yuzu fruit added into it. Yuzu is known for its cleansing, healing properties, and ability to keep away evil spirits. They believe this day to mean once the yin, lengthening of nights, passes, the yang , lengthening of days, will be upon us.


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