The winter solstice is one of the two times each year that the Sun is at its farthest point from the equator and appears to stand still. It occurs today at 6:12 A.M. EST, the earliest winter since 1896. The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol, or "Sun," and stitium, or "stoppage."
The Halcyon Days also occur around this time. According to ancient legend, a grieving wife named Halcyon threw herself into the sea upon discovering the drowned body of her beloved husband, Ceyx. The gods took pity on the pair, transforming them into kingfishers, or halcyons, with the power to still the stormy seas for 14 days near the time of the winter solstice while they hatched their young.