The First Day of Winter: Winter Solstice 2018

Winter Solstice Date, Facts, Folklore, and More

When is First Day of Winter?

Winter officially begins with the Winter Solstice on Friday, December 21, 2018. This is the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Enjoy our winter solstice facts, folklore, FAQs, and more!

When is the Winter Solstice?

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

In 2018, the Winter Solstice arrives on Friday, December 21, at 5:23 pm EST.

Winter Solstice Dates

Year Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)
2018 Friday, December 21
2019 Saturday, December 21
2020 Monday, December 21

What is the Winter Solstice?

The word solstice comes from Latin sol “sun” and sistere “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.

Observe the changing day length in your area with our Sunrise and Sunset Times Calculator.

Winter sunset

Winter FAQs

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: The day of the winter solstice 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 (in the Northern Hemisphere).

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’s existence remains a mystery. Read more about Ancient Sites Aligned with the Solstice and Equinox.

Ice crystals

Question: Is the solstice the start of winter or the mid-point of winter?

Answer: There is not a black-and-white answer—it depends. We follow what the astronomical calendar tells us. The solstice is the beginning of astronomical winter. (An almanac is defined as a “calendar of the heavens,” so we use the astronomical definition as well.) Astronomical seasons are based on the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun. However, meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle.

It is important for meteorologists to be able to compare climatological statistics for a particular season from one year to the next for agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other purposes. Thus, meteorologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months. Winter includes December, January, and February.

Did you know? For the ancient Celts, the calendar was based around the solstices and equinoxes, marking the Quarter Days, with the mid-points called Cross-Quarter Days. Learn more about the Celtic calendar.

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. 

Read more winter weather folklore.

Winter forest sunset

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 or cool, and places such as Florida fill up with people escaping the harshness of a northern winter.

What does winter mean to you? Let us know in the comments!

Learn More About the First Days of Seasons

Find out more about the First Days of the Seasons:

What will the rest of winter be like this year? Read our Winter Weather Forecast and pick up a copy of The 2018 Old Farmer’s Almanac to find out!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

winter solstice

Every year we host a Solstice celebration on a hill overlooking a lovely lake, near our house. In MN is it not a choice to have a frozen season. We try to encourage our friends to embrace it. Better for the spirits and better to get outside and get that Vitamin D. Here's a poem I wrote for it:
Behold the early falling of the light.
The creeping cold, the dimming of our sight.

But hark, a hoot comes from the darkened trees
A call, and then another ‘cross the freeze

A stillness, crisp and thin, descends to earth
A star and then another given birth

Fear not, for winter’s visit has an end.
Go forth with fire and cloak and be its friend!

the pictures on this site

I just have to tell you that, on pursuing this site about the equinoxes, I was struck by the beauty of many of the pictures posted there. What joy they brought to me this early morning!

winter solstice

Every year we host a Solstice celebration on a hill overlooking a lovely lake, near our house. In MN is it not a choice to have a frozen season. We try to encourage our friends to embrace it. Better for the spirits and better to get outside and get that Vitamin D. Here's a poem I wrote for it:
Behold the early falling of the light.
The creeping cold, the dimming of our sight.

But hark, a hoot comes from the darkened trees
A call, and then another ‘cross the freeze

A stillness, crisp and thin, descends to earth
A star and then another given birth

Fear not, for winter’s visit has an end.
Go forth with fire and cloak and be its friend!

Love Winter

Winters my favorite season enjoy the crisp cold air, zero humidity and no pesky bugs to content with. I also love Winter because I could sleep so much better. I'm so happy to see the temperature started to go down. Unfortunately within a few months my favorite season will be gone and the temperature would start to warm up and the pesky bugs would come back again.

Winter solstice

Thank you for your e-news. Very informative. Just want to return your blessings for the new year. May it be filled with health, joy and prosperity. And love the gorgeous photos :)


Absolutely ...winter is my favorite season...most comfortable!

No humidity, extreme heat, heat rashes, heat related swollen feet, bites, Let me become a beach swim in the oceans...salt water and sand.

I Love Winter

I spend my winters hiking and camping in The Wilderness Areas of The Catskill Mountains taking my Wildlife and Nature Photos. I think more people would enjoy Winter if they knew how to dress for it.

Winter isn't my favorite

It's very nice to know that the days are about to get longer again. I can't wait for the Spring Equinox!


I love winter, the cool cold crisp fresh air. It rids all the old and brings in the new for Spring. It's a time of reflection and appreciation. I love looking out after a snow and getting out in it. It is refreshing taking deep breaths the air is so clean. Also stopping and looking at the crystals of the snow shimmer and if you get real close and look at all the different shapes of the snowflakes it's wonderful and exquisite on how fine and delicate they are. Winter is wonderful. Food taste better, I love putting my bottled water out and letting it get nice and cold and even freeze. I love driving in it. I love playing in it, I love shoveling in it. Any day that has freshness like Winter I'll take it. We are Blessed with the cold winter months, we need them, It's the cycle of Life. It's beautiful and it also can be harsh. I think it is a nice way to start off the year. Anew fresh crisp clean, Winter.

I love winter

No more sweating like a pig waking up to soaking wet sheets in the night, no more slipping on a steep embankment cutting grass, no more neighbor cutting his grass every single day rain or shine, no more dread of turning on the oven to get that cookie fix, no more fleas, ticks and mosquitoes (well with these warm winters the ticks are always there) and lastly plenty of time to read the almanac!

Winter means....

I don't have to shave my legs


I love your sense of humor. There has to be some good in winter.

Astronomical vs. Meteorological Seasons

This article spoke of the difference between the astronomical seasons and the meteorological seasons. Another good example of this difference is that the meteorological rain year starts on October 1st. The reason that this date is chosen is because about that time of year is when the snow pack and surface water such as creek and river flows, and lake levels are at their lowest.

Winter means to me

My birthday is December 22. I get my week of vacation in between Yule and New Year's.Celebrating the Holidays with all my family. And celebrating with my Pagan family. I also look FF to hosting the Winter Solstice event, every year with our all women Pagan Circle. And Indeed the cooler weather. I'm no Summer girl for sure. Winter is my favorite season by far!!! Blessed Be to you and yours on this blessed Solstice Day!

Seasons of Life

I am a winter's child being born on December 21. Winter is my least favorite season but to appreciate light you must know darkness. Out of dormanancy comes new growth. Everything needs a resting and restoration time. The Earth knows what it needs with each change of seasons. Each one has it's on unique beauty. Winter is soft and quietly waiting for the new birth of Spring, then the warmth and activity of Summer life, moves into the relaxation of the Fall, leading to the death in winter. So is the cycle of Life of our own seasons.

Your comment on....

Your comment on the farmers almanac about the winter solstice is a beautiful description I've never heard make so sense. Thank you

The Seasons of Life

Your comment is beautifully stated and 100% true. The fall and winter seasons are magical, and they are Nature's/God's way of showing us the process of dying and death are equally as breathtaking as the vibrancy and life of spring and summer. All energy is a cycle; nothing truly ever dies.


For me winter is love, home and family by a cozy fire with hot chocolate ~ I'm more aware of my blessings and contemplate what lies ahead for myself and those I love. Winter is spiritual, playful and fun. It reminds me to be mindful of those who are in need when temperatures drop....people as well as animals. Winter blessings to all.

I love winter same as summers

I love winter same as summers , both have their own fun , in winters we always try to stay warm .. its a good experience to play outdoors and have fun


I love winter , a time for family and snuggling up by the fire with a cup of tea watching the grinch or any other Christmas movie

Winter Revelry

I love the contemplative chill and cosying up of winter. I unfortunately live in Florida. However, every few winters we get a real bone-chiller (in the 'teens) and that's when I bundle up and hit our beautiful state parks for that magnificent hush that happens in January and February. It's just the best! I miss winters in North Carolina, where my family is originally from, but I have to admit I don't miss driving the icy winding roads!

Love all the Solstice information!

Please keep me on your sender list. Thank you!

Less Trolls and more Cheer!

The older I get the more I prefer winter to summer. That wonderful time of year when everyone dresses up for the holidays and dresses down to snuggle by the fire. I live for those holiday flavors like eggnog, warm spiced mead, and pumpkin flavored everything. It's a time for family gatherings, family traditions, and bitter sweet memories of family members that are no longer with us. Lets not forget the wonder of fresh snow -- God's airbrush that covers the world's imperfections with a flawless white veil, if only for a little while. Sure winter can be cold but that just gives us a reason to keep warm with someone special.

I thought this was a wonderful article and I am mystified by the amount of Trolls and pseudointellectuals that felt the need to correct the title without bothering to read the content. May all of those miserable Grinches get frostbite on their finger tips and forgo typing again until summer.

Merry Christmas to all - even you, Shmumpkin.


Shab-e Yalda ("Yalda night" Persian: شب یلدا‎‎) or Shab-e Chelleh ("night of forty", Persian: شب چله‎‎) is an Iranian festival celebrated on the "longest and darkest night of the year," that is, in the night of the Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice. Calendrically, this corresponds to the night of December 20/21 (±1) in the Gregorian calendar, and to the night between the last day of the ninth month (Azar) and the first day of the tenth month (Dey) of the Iranian civil calendar.

Yalda night

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing that cultural information. I really enjoy learning about the different traditions that we have around this amazing world that we live in.

Not the first day of winter

The Winter Solstice is the MIDDLE day of winter - it is in the middle of the 90 shortest days of the year. Just like June 21 is the middle of summer, not the first day of summer - probably why in almost every northern hemisphere country other than the US, June 21 is called 'midsummer'.

Winter Warmth

A time to appreciate the warmth of the sun, a hot bowl of soup, a novel or two, a shot of scotch or two, reminisce with friends and family and slow down time to enjoy life.

What Winter Means to Me

In the fall, most people are mourning the passing of Summer, but here in south Florida, we say "good riddance." Good riddance to the heat, humidity, daily rain, and mosquitoes. This area is the envy of the nation when it comes to winter weather (it was 85 yesterday Dec. 20). The only downside is all of the traffic because the population of this area nearly doubles between November and April.

Winter solstice

Today is NOT the first day of winter. It is the winter solstice, or Mid Winter's Day. In all lunar calendars the start of winter is around the start of November, although the exact date is not agreed on. That is why there is Bonfire night to boost the power of the sun during the winter months. Today also coincides with the start of the new fiscal quarter. Rents were paid, wages were paid, hiring fairs were held on the quarter days that were the two solstices and the equinox, Or Lady day, mid Summer, Michaelmas and Candlemas. These are fiscal arrangements and not marking the march of the seasons. The seasons change at the start of November, February, May, and August. This puts Mid summers day in mid summer. Tch

Winters Harshness

Bill Murray got it right in the movie GoundHog Day - It is cold, gray, and lasts for the rest of your life!