Winter Solstice 2019: The First Day of Winter

Winter Solstice Date, Facts, Folklore, and More

November 11, 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 First Day of Winter?

In 2019, the winter solstice arrives on Saturday, December 21, at 11:19 p.m. EST, marking the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

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

Winter Solstice Dates

Year Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere) Winter Solstice (Southern Hemisphere)
2019 Saturday, December 21* Friday, June 21
2020 Monday, December 21 Saturday, June 20
2021 Tuesday, December 21 Sunday, June 20*

*Due to time zone differences, this solstice will technically occur on the next day in some regions.

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 to this question—it depends on which “winter” you follow! 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. In contrast, meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle and patterns.

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. Meteorological winter starts on December 1 and 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 (for good reason). 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 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac to find out!


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

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!


We thrive on sun for energy & nutrients.
Our moods change for the sun brings vibrants. Winter & sun in combination is good. But the short day light hours doesn't give people who work inside much outlet to get sun light. Koodos to those who plow the snow as u I prefer the sun.

winter's harshness

in time, every season becomes precious and deserves to be prolonged



The beauty and joy of winter

After seeing the trees to loose their leaves the winter comes with all its splendor. Snow turns everything white and the sounds are muffled because of it. Love winter!!

Winter Solstice

Means snow, snow, and more snow. You can never have too much snow! I also love the darker days because it gives me an excuse to hibernate like a bear. Only problem is that I still have to go to work every day!

Winter Solstice

Means snow, snow, and more snow. You can never have too much snow! I also love the darker days because it gives me an excuse to hibernate like a bear. Only problem is that I still have to go to work every day!


After spending 28 years plowing snow I will be so happy to be away from it in 2 years. It seems snow brings out some of the worst in people form where I sit. Winter used to be my favorite time of year looking forward to the beauty of a fresh snow cover, but now all I want is to go where it is warm.

What does winter mean?

A time of rest from labors. A soft downy comforter pulled up around the ears of the ground to let it sleep and regain its energy for a new burst come spring.

Use of the word theory

I note here you apply the 'common' usage of the word theory which in scientific terms would translate to 'Hypothesis'. for example you say: "because none of these theories has been proven correct as yet, the true reason (or reasons) for Stonehenge remains a mystery".
This different usage of the same word is what provides ammunition to deniers of various 'Scientific Theories' like evolution where the word means something more like "It's been tested, peer reviewed, and is the only solution we can accept because the all evidence we have supports this, and only this explanation.

21ST December

Its my birthday! Shortest day but longest night.......