Winter Solstice 2019: The First Day of Winter

Winter Solstice Date, Facts, Folklore, and More

March 6, 2019
When is First Day of Winter?

Winter officially begins with the Winter Solstice on Saturday, December 21, 2019. 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 2019, the winter solstice arrives on Saturday, December 21, at 11:19 pm EST.

Winter Solstice Dates

Year Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)
2019 Saturday, December 21
2020 Monday, December 21
2021 Tuesday, 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!

720x480-gardening.jpg

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

An old saying about winter

As the days lengthens the cold straightens

winter solstice

In this little town of New Bern, NC, our winter solstice celebration will be shared by those who also celebrate humanity. We will go up on the roof of a local restaurant, sip some wine and enjoy the wonder of the night!

what winter means to me

I think without a true winter( snow, frigid temps etc.) You wouldn't appreciate the spring and other seasons as much. Winter is quieter. A pallet of white, grey, brown, andblack. Snow blankets the earth with a insulating cover, to protect tender seedlings and growth. The fun and activities: snow boarding, skiing, sledding, snowballs, snowmen, forts and snowangels!!!! The sun reflecting off the bright white of snow. Catching snowflakes in your mouth. Marveling at the shape of a snowflake(no two are the same!) Delighting in the pattern of frost on a window.It is a time of reflection and renewal. Sitting around a fireplace snuggled under a quilt. Even the animals changing their coats to blend with the landscape. The green of evergreens. My first winters were in Montana. The memories forever in my heart and soul.

December 21 Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is always a somber time, but then the count down to Summer and all the fun events starts.

What winter solstice means to us.

Family vacations, my 3 children my husband and myself all sitting on a warm dandy beach enjoy the sun and the love we share as a family unit, United as one universally.

Winter Solstice 2018

Yes, but WHY does the weather continue to get colder after the winter solstice?

The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night, but nights continue to be shorter than days right up to the spring equinox (around March 21). One would expect the temperature to start getting warmer the day after the spring equinox, when there is finally more sunlight than darkness.

Most years, the weather actually starts getting warmer around February in the Northern Hemisphere (give or take, there are a lot of variations in weather and local climates). This is because temperature movement between Earth and space relies on finding a balance, and the colder Earth is, the more heat it can absorb from the sun, and the hotter Earth is, the more heat the ground can radiate into space at night.

So the temperature change is not lagging behind the solstice, it is coming earlier than the equinox, due to the extreme temperature the hemisphere acquired during winter (or summer).

When is Winter?

For where I live in Virginia, the seasons line up better with astronomical seasons than they do with calendar months (the so-called meteorological seasons). It usually doesn't get really cold here until late December (although this year has been an exception) and snow and freezing temperatures continue well into March. The same holds true for summer when the heat hangs on well past Labor Day. If the weathermen insist on assigning seasons to whole months (to simplify record keeping) then Winter should be January - March, etc. Nine out of ten years, it's way to cold on March 1 to call it the first day of Spring.

solstice article

the temperature is a measure or indicator (abstract)

it cannot be hot or cold
do you mean LOW temperature?

What I think about Winter

I see winter as a time to slow down and relax by the fireplace with a cup of tea. I have a ritual of cleaning out my closet and giving to charities. I enjoy the holidays in winter because I get to see my family and catch up on with them. I also enjoy going out for social events with groups of friends. Every December I go to see the Nutcracker ballet at the local performing arts center. I suppose for me Winter is filled with fun and exciting things to do as long as I bundle up on the frigid days I get along fine with Winter.

Sounds perfect!

Sounds perfect!

Winter Wonderland

I am so happy i came across the almanac this morning. As I am sitting on my patio in Germantown, Maryland watchinf the rain drops hit the pavement and my face being struck by cool...crisp air.

I love the winter! Its full of so many beautiful creations. The snow falling...christmas spirit present early on, children laughing, lights & decor galore & many great pages of facts ansmd folklore to explore while sitting in front of my fire. Its the season of snowflakes & snuggles. Its truly magical.

Winter Solstice

The Editors's picture

We’re glad to hear that you’re enjoying our website! Have a lovely winter solstice and holiday season!

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!

Love the poem

Love the poem

Beautiful!

Great job on your poem! Thanks for sharing!

winter solstice poem by carol white 1/5/18

That's a lovely poem and good thoughts. The first thing I did this morning was to bring in armfuls of wood for the wood stove. I wanted to have a good bit piled on the hearth before it started raining. I brought in 6 armfuls of dry wood! Then I fed the chickens and my husband & I. Now I can sit back and relax by the fire. My easel and oil paints are in the same room. I certainly enjoy winter a lot more now that I'm retired. It was no fun having to clear our driveway and still have to brave icy, slick roads to get to work an hour away. NOW I can enjoy winter, thank God, and I do!

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 :)

Winter

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

No humidity, extreme heat, heat rashes, heat related swollen feet, bites, Let me become a beach bum...to 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!

Winter isn't my favorite either!

Spring equinox is only 88 days away.

Winter

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

Winter

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!

Pages