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First Day of Winter 2014: The Winter Solstice

Winter Infinity

Credit: Fred Camilli
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In 2014, winter begins on December 21, 6:03 P.M. EST. Get more information about the winter solstice below.

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” –Steve Martin

See when each season starts.

The Winter Solstice

Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can't wait for the cooler weather, snow, skiing and ice skating, curling up by a fire, and the holiday spirit. Other people dislike the frigid temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather.

The word solstice comes from the Latin words for "sun" and "to stand still.” In the Northern Hemisphere, as summer advances to winter, the points on the horizon where the Sun rises and sets advance southward each day; the high point in the Sun’s daily path across the sky, which occurs at local noon, also moves southward each day. At the winter solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, the path will advance northward. However, a few days before and after the winter solstice, the change is so slight that the Sun’s path seems to stay the same, or stand still. The Sun is directly overhead at "high-noon" on Winter Solstice at the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice days are the days with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year.

See your local Sun rise and set times and see how the days change!

Questions and Answers About Winter

Question: Why is there such a time lag between the shortest day of the year and the lowest average daily temperature of the year?

Answer:This is the shortest day of the year—the time when the Sun reaches its southernmost point in the sky. Although this part of Earth is cooling, its great thermal mass still retains some heat from the summer and fall. As the gradual cooling process continues over the next two months, temperatures will continue to fall, and the coldest temperatures will be recorded. The same pattern holds true for the summer solstice in June, as the year's highest temperatures are recorded later, in July and August.

Question: Was Stonehenge built to celebrate the winter solstice?

Answer: That's one theory. Stonehenge was constructed in several phases over a period of many centuries. Due to the alignment of the stones, experts acknowledge that the design appears to correspond with the use of the solstices and possibly other solar and lunar astronomical events in some fashion. There are several theories as to why the structure was built, including that the area was used as a temple to worship the Sun; as a royal burial ground; and/or as a type of astronomical observatory. However, because none of these theories has been proven correct as yet, the true reason (or reasons) for Stonehenge remains a mystery.

Signs of Winter

It depends on where you are! In some places, snow begins to sprinkle down (or dump) onto the landscape, painting everything white. You notice a peaceful sort of silence when you walk through the woods—a muffled kind of quiet. It also mean shoveling, snowblowing, dealing with bad roads, and sometimes unbearable temperatures. For others, the temperatures become very mild and cool, and Florida fills up with people escaping the harshness of a northern winter.

You can track when the seasons change by recording animal behaviors and the way that the plants grow. Listen to the new sounds and observe what you hear and see.

Please share your signs of winter below!

Winter Folklore and Verse

Deep snow in winter; tall grain in summer—Estonian proverb

Visits should be short, like a winter's day.

A fair day in winter is the mother of a storm—English proverb

Summer comes with a bound; winter comes yawning.

Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in. 

Wonderful Photo Contest

Enter your pictures in our Winter Photo Contest here!

Below are a couple of our past winners. Enjoy!

"Little Bantam in the Snow"

"Marshall Point Lighthouse"

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Comments

What if most history that we

By ridgeman

What if most history that we have been taught is false...if u ask questions about Stonehenge from a religious perspective u will receive a man made answer...look at the crop circles that are being created by light beings(Orbs) right beside Stonehenge and study the ancient math of the Egyptians...connect the dots and u will have your own personal answer...your personal journey...it is not about following what u see but what u feel is true to your heart...feel the energy at these places and know there is no separation in all that exists...God is there in your heart...not from a man made god... but the essence of the God that lies within us all.

Don't confuse me with facts -

By Mands

Don't confuse me with facts - I've made up my mind.

Don't follow what you see, but what you feel!? What a load of claptrap.

Crop circles have been proven

By rudy garskutnick

Crop circles have been proven to be man made.

SOME crop circles are man

By rasymus

SOME crop circles are man made, that does not mean that ALL crop circles are man made. Think, do not be gullible. Use your intellect, exercise your ability to reason, and some logic, it is fun once you get the hang of it. Remember that there is much, much more that we do not know, compared to all that we think we do.

Here in Ireland there is a

By Skerrybaz

Here in Ireland there is a structure that pre-dates the great pyramid of giza by 500 years and it only allows light to pass into its inner chamber on the winter solstice, it's called Newgrange and it is thought to be the oldest man made enclosed building in the world!

I was there in '99. Within

By Iris Rose

I was there in '99. Within the same week I located the stone circle that is the Summer Solstice sacred spot. I met my dear pal Mary there. Now I can't remember where it was just that it was way in the country & hard to find. Do you know?

The only place that springs

By skerrybaz

The only place that springs to mind would be the Grange stone circle in Limerick, did you visit or travel through a village called Bruff by any chance?

I have been to Ireland

By Maureen Bodnar

I have been to Ireland several times and only found Newgrange in 2010. It was by far one of the most intriguing and interesting sites in Ireland.

how very neat. I have Ireland

By Tamara Stuckey

how very neat. I have Ireland on my bucket list and would love to see it one day. I think this would be very neat to go and see while I am there.

A note: If there is duplicate

By Almanac Staff

A note: If there is duplicate posting on our site, we will remove it, especially if we have already responded. You may also find it interesting to reference our overall Seasons page: http://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-seasons
Thank you, the OFA

LOVE FOLLOWING WEATHER

By TED RICHARDS

LOVE FOLLOWING WEATHER PREDICTIONS AND FORCASTS. BUT WONDERING ABOUT THE UPPER MID-WEST {N.W.IL. AREA,} Silvis IL FOR snow prediction 2013-14. We moved here in 2011 an have had 2 really mild snowfall. THE 2010-11 YR I WAS TOLD chicago got 2ft of snow.Could this be the yr...I moved from Eastern Pa.after 65 yrs.

I have heard that hares and

By David in Omaha

I have heard that hares and foxes turned white in winter but this the first time I have seen an albino "chicken".

The chicken is a white

By Brenda b

The chicken is a white leghorn. They are one of the best egg layers and are a white breed, not actually an albino.

last winter here in oregon

By greg field

last winter here in oregon (willamette valley) there was no snow at low levels (250 feet) or, about sea level. i'm 57- it was the only winter with no snow i can recall.and for some odd reason in my garden i could not seem to persuade my pumpkins or winter squash to do much - in fact there were no pumpkins bigger than a softball (coulda been my fault) and turban squash grew at first then rotted on the vine. sunflowers grew, tomatoes somewhat lethargic also. for 15 years i religiously bought the Almanac. still have them too. can i access your archives on computer ? greg field independence or.

is there any correlation to

By he110j0ey

is there any correlation to moon cycles and the solstice? i noticed this year it is 7 days after the half moon, twelve days between new and full [25th dec]. any lunar winter solstice that corresponds in historic calanders, like the aramaic lunar calander used in 4ad?

The orbit of the Moon around

By Almanac Staff

The orbit of the Moon around Earth, and of Earth around the Sun, are independent of one another, so there is no direct correlation between Moon phase and the seasons. However, Greek astronomer Meton observed that 19 solar (tropical) years approximately equals 235 synodic (lunar) months. That means that every 19 years, the Moon phases usually recur on the same dates of the solar calendar year. (For example, in 2012, the Full Moon on Nov 28, the Last Quarter on Dec 6, etc., would also occur on those dates in 2031, or very close to it--it's not a perfect formula.) Called the Metonic cycle, it was used in calculations for ancient lunar and lunisolar calendars (such as the Hebrew calendar), as well as in calculations for the date of Easter in the Julian calendar. For lunisolar calendars, often an extra month would be added about every 3 years to keep it in sync with the seasons.

(Callippus refined the Metonic cycle later, and Hipparchus refined it even more.)

Hope this helps!

how bad will the winter be in

By ohio farmers union

how bad will the winter be in ohio

To find our long-range

By Almanac Staff

To find our long-range weather forecast for your area, go to: http://www.almanac.com/weather/longrange and type in your zip code, or your city/state. It will give you our predictions for the current month and next month (Nov/Dec now).

To find out our weather predictions for the entire year, you can purchase a copy of The 2013 Old Farmer's Almanac online at Almanac.com/Store or by calling 1-800-ALMANAC. You can also buy the Almanac wherever books and magazines are sold in your area. Thank you!

Thanks for pointing out that

By LizMG

Thanks for pointing out that winter's arrival will be earlier this year than since 1896. Can you provide any historical context about the end of winter? (i.e., will the 2012 vernal equinox of 7:02am EDT be earlier or later than usual?)

The vernal equinox of 2012

By Almanac Staff

The vernal equinox of 2012 (March 20 at 1:14 am EDT; March 19 at 10:14 pm PDT) was the earliest since 1896, but the vernal equinox of 2013 is not quite as spectacular, starting on March 20 at 7:02 am EDT; March 20 at 4:02 am PDT.

It looks like the next time that the vernal equinox will occur on March 19 in PDT will be in 2016 (at about 9:30 pm PDT); for EDT, in 2020 (at about 11:50 pm EDT). But even in EDT, the vernal equinox of 2016 will be earlier than the one in 2012: March 20 at about 12:30 am EDT.

How bad will the winter be?

By Winterliker

How bad will the winter be? I will tell you on June 1, 2013. To me a bad winter would be one without snow!

how bad will winter be for

By christina whobrey

how bad will winter be for southern west missouri will there be alot of snow

There will be record breaking

By Anony

There will be record breaking snow fall this year

Look for 8-10ft in your area

Was the first day of winter

By PAUL TAALMAN

Was the first day of winter 2012, December 21, 2011?

The winter solstice in 2011

By Almanac Staff

The winter solstice in 2011 was on December 22 at 12:30 A.M. (EST). The first day of winter for 2012 is on December 21 at 6:12 A.M.

Will Almanac Staff be

By Linda Lee Walls

Will Almanac Staff be responding to an earlier comment I read here in Nov.2013 referring to Winter Solstice being the middle of winter, not the beginning of winter?

Signs of winter: Juncos

By Celeste Brooks

Signs of winter: Juncos (snowbirds), like robins announce spring, snowbirds announce that winter has arrived.

I agree! These have been my

By M. E. Demorest

I agree! These have been my winter and spring signs for many years.

@DruidJames Your note on

By gingabox

@DruidJames
Your note on Stonehenge is slightly misleading in that it speaks as though it is established and verifiable fact. Considering that the builders left no written record and not even the most intimately involved researchers debate as to who began construction, one would be wise to recognize that it is not as straight forward as all that. Construction was done over a 1,700 year period with additions and changes made along the way.

Furthermore, the Druid's (as opposed to modern day neo-druids) association with Stonehenge has been thoroughly dispelled in T.D. Kendrick, The Druids: A Study in Keltic Prehistory.

While most of what you say regarding the stones positioning is more or less true, the purpose has never been ascertained, again mainly due to the lack of a written record, however scholars now are convinced that it was likely a place of ancestor worship and death rituals (funerals and burials)- "cremated remains found on the site indicate that deposits contain human bone material from as early as 3000 BC, when the initial ditch and bank were first dug. Such deposits continued at Stonehenge for at least another 500 years." (See Schmid, Randolph E. "Study: Stonehenge was a burial site for centuries" for more info)

All this to say that posting Notes for informational purposes is great, but readers must use a great deal of discernment in accepting their accuracy.

Note on Stonehenge. It was

By DruidJames

Note on Stonehenge.
It was Built by the village Brehon's or Priest. We know them as Druids. It was built on the convergence of land lines or energy lines of the land. They used the stones as markers of the cycle of the year. To mark when to begin planting or harvesting. The major cycles of the year are marked by the equinox and solstice of the seasons and the cross quarters of same.
They then celebrated the seasons of change and through the posative energies they assured themselves and the land a posative outcome.

Oh dear - DruidJames is

By Charles O'Flynn

Oh dear - DruidJames is plainly incorrect according to all the available evidence and Mairi speaks a good deal of sense (and I am not a pagan).

Co-opting a pre-existing

By Mairi

Co-opting a pre-existing human-made creation and claiming it for one's religious beliefs is hubris at its most annoying. Christians have done this time and time again. Please avoid repeating their mistakes. There is as much evidence to support your assertions as there is to support creationism. Paganism is a wonderful thing (I know - I am a pagan); but willful ignorance is not. Passing off one's faith as fact is to be avoided at all times because while facts are facts, faiths will differ.

+1

By Anon E. Mouse

+1

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