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!

2020 Almanac Calendar Club

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

December 21

Yo Shmumpkin, the Christian message is much more important than the pagan message. The Light of the World has come into the world just for you (and everyone else) to show you the Truth. You have the choice to accept or reject the Truth. He will respect your choise, but it is forever.

Winter

As for the truth, yeah ok. Christianity is based on lies, domination and control of the masses. Talk about a passive/aggressive personality, your messiah has it in spades... I bring you peace and truth and IF YOU DON'T DO EXACTLY LIKE I SAY YOU WILL BURN IN HELL

Cart before the horse...

...or perhaps sleigh before the reindeer? Either way, my dear, you've got it back to front. The reality is that your most solemn and dreadful end is to burn in hell anyway. Jesus Christ came to earth to save you from that, if only you will repent of your rebellion against him and submit to his infinite love and compassion. In so doing you will discover that he is worthy of your love and worship.

Praying

Anddrea, my prayers are with you. Until you have a personal relationship with the Lord, you just can't understand it. I pray you never totally close your heart and mind to Christ. Merry Christmas and God bless you.

There is no Christmas without Christ.

There is no Christmas wioht Christ. It's all a bunch of hype to get you to buy stuff. There are Christian roots in the Christmas tree, in St Nicholas, also called Santa Claus. That day is actually Dec 16. The same goes for Halloween Hallo meaning holy. All Souls' Day and then Nov 1 being all saints day. All of these holidays are based in Christianity. But commercialism has slowly brainwashed people into buying and wasting more and more. So if you take Christ out of Christmas you're left with the mall, and television commercials.

Winter

My daughter loves the Winter, and prays for snow. Snow is lovely but I am generally averse to cold temperatures. I get cold easily but love seeing and feeling seasons come and go and it's lovely to mark them. I was interested by what Crystal, above, was saying about hibernation. I believe we should have 'hibernation leave' built into working practice. When the sky is grim at 2pm I feel it pressing down on me and I just want to sleep. You're just not as functional during the winter. The winters seem to have been getting milder but the lack of light is of course the same :)

Founding traditions

If this almanac was founded in 1792, it must have originally used a very old version of HTML.

natural

I celebrate winter and summer solstice and spring and Autumn equinox. It is so amazing to be apart of natural process that so many people throughout history have connected to. me and my friend exchange gifts we have made using natural material. however i do suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, i believe natural we should hibernate but our human system is so built up we cant, so we struggle along in winter like zombies. Nevertheless the best thing about winter solstice is now we start to get longer days. winter is beautiful because we know with everything in life, where there is dark there is light somewhere to be found. winter reminds us that we need to have hope for the future. xxx

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, is helped tremendously by being exposed to full spectrum lighting for several hours of the day. It works a hell of a lot better than drugs. If you are not on a regiment of light treatment, I suggest you start. Find a doctor that knows about it.

WInter

I would like to comment that 21st December is the MIDWINTER point NOT the first day of winter which began on November 1st..... Just as June 21st is the MIDSUMMER point... I do wish the internet sites followed the true traditional dates for the seasons.

2nd February is first day of spring.. 21st March Equinox 30th April first day of summer 21st June Midsummer 2nd August first day of Autumn 21st September Equinox Ist November first day of Winter 21st December MIdwinter...... Thank you

QUARTER DAYS

The Solstices and Equinoxes are called Quarter Days. So I guess this would make the Cross Quarter Days, the mid-points between the Quarter Days, the Fist Days of the season. Some very interesting celebrations old and new occur near these days. The pagans and the Christians both seem to like to celebrate year round. Lakiam!

And which planet are you on.

And which planet are you on.

Winter solstice

Thank you Elaine - at last someone who knows the difference between the fiscal world and the natural world. Happy Solstice. x

Winter :)

I really like winter, especially when it snows, but since I live in the U.K. we don't get much snow. There is Christmas though and I like getting presents for everyone, and seeing what they think they open them makes me happy. There are temporary ice skating rinks which are fun and when it does snow everyone goes sledging. It's also cold which is nice because it's easy to warm up (if you want to) but you don't feel hot and sticky all the time like you do in the summer

Winter time

Winter in the UK seems milder that years ago or is it my age! Our summer is milder too... we used to have really cold snow covered times in January but I can remember the last time we had snow here. I feel a bit let down as I don't like the winter in the slightest and hate hiding away from the dark nights at home. Snow was a joy and the best part! Think that I need to go and find some and frolic!

Yes it is warmer

I've noticed a distinct warming of winter than compared to 30 years ago. I can't remember the last time we had snow on xmas day recently, but I do as a kid and as a teenager, but the summers have gotten longer and we have more Indian summers now than we used to.
Its a shame that my kids have only experienced big snow several times in their life in 25 years.

Think you need to go and get

Think you need to go and get some sleep!! How were you awake that early-I'm just starting my day!

headed south

I moved to Texas after I had retired to get away from tge Michigan winters... so glad I did..

Michigan Winters

I agree one hundred percent! I think the concept of Winter Solstice is very interesting reading, however; when it come to the frigid temperatures, I can really do without that especially with four months of aching joints. I am counting down to my retirement so that I can move Southwest to get away from the snow and frigid temperatures. The Winter Solstice is Interesting reading; however you can keep the winter days.

Winter

Winter..Brings back all the Great Memories of growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan...Ice skating., skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing....staying outside all day on Saturdays at the Ice Skating Rink was my favorite then going into the warming shed to have Hot dogs and Hot chocolate...my mother enjoyed having 5 children gone for the whole day for herself !

Winter Cold

I couldn't stand the cold, even as a child. My mom told me I was a "summer baby" (June 1st birthday), But now as I am about to turn 61 (jun.) it's worse, with every year I dread it more. I DO NOT LIKE WINTER!!!!

Winter

Winter used to be so much fun when I was young...skaimg for hours in the bush and on the pond, sledding and snow trails and snow sculpting competitions...
my Spirit still loves all these things...but my 53 year old body is fight cancer and Lyme...but since I changed to fighting for my life; drug free; I believe I will be skating in February!

Skating in February

I hope you can! And pray for a miracle for you!. God Bless!

Winter

I've lived in Florida, but lately I spend most of my time in New York. I like winter, and I like all seasons. I think it's great that the seasons change , and one has the opportunity to change ones wardrobe. It's certainly boring to live in an area with the same weather all year.
One thing I really like about winter is a big snowstorm(blizzard).☃ There's nothing more beautiful than viewing a panoramic snowstorm from a high level apartment.
One negative of winter is the thought of walking on black ice.

Winter

I love winter but I hate it too! In the western part of Canada it is very dry in the winter so I hate it because it means lots of lotion, but I love it too because when I walk in the snow it's very crunchy and I like the sound of it under my boots. When there's no wind and it's clear at night I love stepping outside to breathe in that cold air and see the stars sparkling and then I thank God for the wonderful things He made for us to enjoy. I hate the winter though when I have to get up early for work and I have to go out and scrape my windows off and go to work in a cold car. When it gets really cold out I use the command start but then I think of the gas I waste and the fumes it makes then it makes me mad. I get very sad when I see street people wondering around out in the cold.

Winter

Psalms 74:17 says-"17 You set up all the boundaries of the earth; You made summer and winter." l personally favor the summer and fall but I will always be thankful that God gave us four seasons and the snow can be so beautiful. JW.ORG

cold vrs hot

where I live in Nevada it down in the teens [20F last night] but as high as 120 in the summer
and I can deal with cold much better then the heat , but the wife is opposite hides from the cold
... me ..im just like an old bear , ...... I sleep through the coldest part ! gnite !

i love

I love the winter season very much.

Dislike Winte

Houston! I dislike Winter. .Dry skin, chilled all the time. You have to wear a lot of clothes. Air Conditioner one day Heater the next day.50 degree change in 12 hour's. I think Florida has it great! & I'm a Texan. It is what it is!

Winter

I live in Minnesota and been through 60+ winters. Winter lets you know a significant higher power is in charge, your priorities have changed whether you like it or not. I went sliding with my granddaughter today she ate the carrot off the snowman’s nose... Deal with it as best you can. Happy Solstice!

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