First Day of Winter 2016: The Winter Solstice

Winter Infinity

Winter Infinity

Fred Camilli


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In 2016, winter begins on December 21, 5:44 A.M. EST. Learn more about the winter solstice, facts, and folklore!

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

Winter Solstice Dates

Winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it always occurs around December 21 or 22. (In the Southern Hemisphere, it is around June 20 or 21.) 

In 2016, the winter solstice begins at:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 10:44 UTC

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 5:44 am EST

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 4:44 am CST

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 3:44 am MST

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 2:44 am PST

What is the Winter Solstice?

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.

Find out the changing day length in your neck of the woods with our personalized Sunrise/set tool.

Winter photo: “Marshall Point Lighthouse”

Questions and Answers About Winter

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

Answer: This is the shortest day of the year, meaning the one in which we experience the least amount of daylight in 24 hours; it is also 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. Read more about ancient seasonal markers.

“Little Bantam in the Snow”

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. 

What Does Winter Mean to You?

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. You’ll notice a peaceful sort of silence when you walk through the woods—a muffled kind of quiet. 

Other people dislike the frigid temperatures, blizzards, and wild weather. In colder regions, winter often means shoveling, snowblowing, dealing with bad roads, and sometimes unbearable temperatures.  In warmer regions, the winter temperatures become very mild and cool, and places such as Florida fills up with people escaping the harshness of a northern winter.

What does winter mean to you? Please share below!

Find more information about the four seasons.


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The first day of winter is the day with the least time between sunrise and sunset. After that the days slowly begin to lengthen. Those who think of winter as being so dark might want to track the times of sunrise and sunset. As for me, I enjoy winter. It is the only time I can see the branches and limbs that define the shapes of the trees. I am amazed to see bird nests that I never suspected were nearby. And the sound of falling snow is a special kind of music.


A day that's short & cold, is custom made to curl up & read, while sipping a hot cup of cocoa with marshmallows melting...


I am dreading this winter like no other. I am dreading the early darkness. I am dreading the snow. I am dreading the ice. I am dreading the cold. I'm claustrophobic already just thinking about it.


Winter means freezing tempatures and high ones it means being stuck in snow and bundling up.

Winter solstice

The winter solstice IS NOT the first day of winter? It is half way through from the autumnal equinox to the vernal equinox.

Is Florida ever going to have

Is Florida ever going to have any winters

clear this up for me...

11:48pm EST.... Does that mean Winter Solstice for the west coast, PST is three hours later @ 2:48am on the 22nd or at the same time as the east coast... Which would be 8:48pm on the 21.. Mother in law says her west coast edition says 8:48 pm. If so, why do most places I look and most calendars say Dec 22 is winter solstice

When is the winter solstice?

Hi Tina, It depends on your calendar and time zone. Many calendars use Universal Time. The solstice occurs at the same instant everywhere on Earth. In the U.S., it officially occurs 11:48 p.m. EST Monday, 10:48 p.m. Central, 9:48 p.m. Mountain, and 8:48 p.m. Pacific. In Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, this means that the solstice actually comes on Tuesday.

Winter Solstice

It is ridiculous to call the Winter Solstice the first day of winter. The winter and summer solstice and the spring and autumn equinoxes are all mid points in the Earth`s orbit around the Sun. Therefore it is much more accurate to refer to the solstice as mid winter and mid summer, as is the case in many European countries.

winter soltice

Hi Phillip, Writing here from England. :-) The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a “calendar of the heavens,” refers to the astronomical winter when we talk about the winter season; this is based on when the sun reaches the most southern point on the globe, the Tropic of Capricorn. 

Also, this is different than the meteorological winter which refers to weather and is the three month period that runs from the 1st of Decemeber through the end of February.

Cheers, your OFA editors

Are you sure?

My mistake. I did not see EST.

Are you sure?

The first day of Winter in 2015 happens on Dec. 22 not the 21st.


I cannot wait until the 21st. I care for my mother, whose attitude toward participating in her rehabilitation is enhanced by Sunlight.

Daylight savings time ended

Daylight savings time ended on November 2, 2014 and starts again March 8, 2015.

That means we only have 4 months of Daylight Standard time and 8 months of daylight saving time.

Why bother?

Indiana, Arizona and other states never change and are on Standard time year around.

I live in Illinois so what's the big deal.

Just as much farming in Indiana as Illinois.

An Old Indian Saying goes like this:
"only the government would believe you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom and have a longer blanket"!

My preference is Standard time year round in Illinois.

I totally agree! The

I totally agree! The difference between the latest and earliest sunsets would only be about two hours instead of three, much more natural and easier to adjust.

Contrary to what this report

Contrary to what this report and all media may say, Sunday 12.21.14 is NOT shortest day of year, it is shortest daylight day of year - shortest day of year is in March when clocks are turned back 1 hour, making that day 23 hours and conversely, longest day of year is in November, when clocks are turned ahead, making that day 25 hours

Thank you for your feedback.

Thank you for your feedback. We have revised the article a bit to make it clearer what we mean by "shortest day." Interesting point about Daylight Saving Time!

Days are not shorter or

Days are not shorter or longer..Daylight is more or less..DST is mans clock not the heavenly clock.

You have that backwards! We

You have that backwards! We turn the clocks AHEAD 1 hr. in March. In November we turn them .BACK 1 hr. Remember: "Spring forward--Fall back".

Technical so and so

Technical so and so

Just split the difference in

Just split the difference in two. Chandelier the tome by 1/2 hour and never look back.

i think the time should be

i think the time should be left alone. The change back and forth effects all of our eternal clocks, causes us to be late and other issues. It just makes for more confusion and adds more difficulties to life. Thanks

Since April of 2006, all

Since April of 2006, all counties in Indiana have observed daylight savings time.

If my memory of history is

If my memory of history is correct when daylight saving time first started, standard & DST were split about equally. Then, in more recent history trying to make maximum productive use of available daylight the politicians went to far into DST: Parents complained that their children we're going to school in the dark. So, a compromise was struck: When it was light enough at 07:00 DST for kids to go to school, that's when ST ended & the reverse.

I live in Indiana on CST and

I live in Indiana on CST and we observe daylight savings time.

I noticed that the winter

I noticed that the winter solstice is conjoined with the dark moon this year. I was reading about how rare it is for the full moon to be conjoined with the solstice but is the dark moon just as rare? This joins a very short duration of light to an extra dark night.

It appears to be just as

It appears to be just as rare. Looking into dates up to 2025, a new Moon (or full Moon) won't be occurring at the same time as the winter solstice for at least the next 11 years (and beyond). A first quarter Moon will occur at the same time as the winter solstice in 2020, at least in North American time zones.

Pam your comment is so

Pam your comment is so poetic! I was just searching to find the winter solstice date for 2014 and came upon these curious and interesting comments. Yours is delightful. I hope you are a writer, if not please consider it! Thanks.

Dark Moon

It's not a Dark Moon that occurs on Dec 24 2015.
It is a Cold Moon; because the midwinter night is long, and the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. It has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun, thus the name Cold Moon.

When I find wooley bear

When I find wooley bear cattipilars in the fall I noticed that when they are more black than orange the winter seems really cold and snowey, when they are more orange than black the winter seems to be milder. I've been keeping track for over 25 years now and they are always right.

What you didn't say was how

What you didn't say was how were the little wooley bears this year :)

What will the weather be on

What will the weather be on Christmas Eve And Christmas Day? I've been wondering because I couldn't find it on the website. I hope it will SNOW!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Madison Flanders

Hi, Madison: We had a great

Hi, Madison: We had a great Thanksgiving -- thanks! -- and we hope you did, too. This is an excellent question! At the top of, click on Weather. Then: Long-Range Weather Forecast. Then, even though the title says "2015 Long-Range Weather Forecast" -- and we want December 2014 -- enter your zip or postal code and hit Search. This will take you to a page where you can buy the 2015 Long-Range Forecasts ($4.95) for your locale, BUT it also gives you the next two months (Dec. 2014 and Jan. 2015) for FREE, without buying anything. Here you will find the forecasts for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for your area. Thanks for asking, and Merry Christmas from the OFA!

What if most history that we

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 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.

Crop circles have been proven

Crop circles have been proven to be man made.

SOME crop circles are man

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.

Don't confuse me with facts -

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.

Here in Ireland there is a

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!

how very neat. I have Ireland

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.

I have been to Ireland

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.

I was there in '99. Within

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

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?

A note: If there is duplicate

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:
Thank you, the OFA


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

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

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

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

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

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

how bad will the winter be in ohio

To find our long-range

To find our long-range weather forecast for your area, go to: 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 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

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

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?

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

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

There will be record breaking

There will be record breaking snow fall this year

Look for 8-10ft in your area

Was the first day of winter

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

The winter solstice in 2011

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

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

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

I agree! These have been my

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

@DruidJames Your note on

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

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.

Co-opting a pre-existing

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.



Oh dear - DruidJames is

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).

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