Winter Solstice 2018: The First Day of Winter

Winter Solstice Date, Facts, Folklore, and More

December 21, 2018
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.
Coincidentally, December’s full Moon—the Full Cold Moon—will also appear on the night of the 21st, though it will not be at its absolute peak until the next day. So, keep your eyes peeled for a (near) Winter Solstice Full Moon that night! (Believe it or not, the next full Moon to actually peak on the winter solstice won’t be until 2094!)

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

I am not a big fan of Winter. I love the heat and the warm sun. It takes me ten minutes just to get ready to go out and another ten to warm up the car, scrape the windows and the whole routine. Summer a short and flip flops and I am out the door. Also feel so sick to my stomach when I see homeless people sleeping outside in this season.

homeless folk in winter

my wife and I feel the same grief for people in the cold
we go to the thrift store and church sales in warm weather and by coats and snow pants
then we give them in the winter as the Lord leads us..

winter pet peeve !!

when one is out at the stores and you see "parents" walking into the store
in cold weather 50 to 35 F and their little 1 year old is in a thin tee and diaper,
while they are wear sweaters as they walk in !! ...... thoughtless !

Thank you for thinking of the

Thank you for thinking of the less fortunate. People like you will get it back down the road. Have a great winter.

What winter means to me

Winter can be very pretty after a fresh snowfall, that is if you are on the inside looking out.
However, winter can be very mean if you are on the outside and it's freezing cold. Winter days
are often grey and gloomy. My body seems to run on solar batteries and in the winter my solar batteries just do not seem to stay charged for very long - does that make me a sun worshipper?

What winter means to me.

I call it a guilt free season, I don't have to mow the lawn, or feel guilty about being inside when the sun is out. The other nice thing is if I get cold I can always put on more clothes, but if I get hot in the summer there are only so many I can take off to cool down. L.O.L.

What winter means to me.

Great no orange cone season for a while

Winter

Hate it. Period !

What Winter Means to Me.

Winter means it's time to prune the roses so they can re-emerge in the spring in all their glory. It means dragging my Texas-born hubby to my home state for a New England Christmas. I love the cold weather and the snow. It's a time to bundle up and walk in the snow covered woods, where everything is so quiet. It's when hats, scarves and mittens are placed on the radiator to dry after making snow angels. Ice skating, snowmen, snowballs and licking icicles. I wish it would snow in south Texas!!

Winter is Necessary

Winter makes you appreciate summer all the more! Winter makes you tough, keeps you humble and forces you get some rest!

Winter-snow

i still like the snow, when everything is covered you will have that brief period of beauty, quiet, as i enjoy the movies on TMC and AMC.

Winter is necessary

Yes Meg..even humans sort of hibernate...

What Winter Means to Me

I am not sure what winter means to me I have only experienced winter once in the last 16 years. Living in S. Florida and now Southern New Mexico I do not see much winter unless it is on TV.
Maybe this year in Southern New Mexico we may see snow and cold temperatures.

What winter means to me!

I love to watch it snow, but I hate to be out in it, because of the cold, I have Reynaud's Disease, so I get too cold a lot quicker than most people at least in my fingers, toes, nose, and ears. I tried living in Southern California once, but it gets way too hot there in May, winter was great, Spring not so much...we went North then. Right now I live in CO and in a canyon the weather isn't so bad, it does get cold and we usually get some snow, but not a whole lot. Sadly we just had some single digit temps over night the last couple of nights.

Winter?

Just getting more excited for Spring and Summer!

Updated Seasons

We now have 4 updated seasons in the Great Lakes Region... Hot, Cold, Dry, and Wet.
Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter are just a memory.

Winter? Learning to love it again

After spending the first 31 years of my life in upstate NY during the inhospitable winters, and dealing with all of that, I've spent the past 21 years living in a relatively warm part of Japan as a teacher and most recently a farmer.

The only problem with winter here is the lack of central heating and insulation in the buildings. It is literally as cold inside the schools as it is outside, which makes both teaching an interesting English class and learning how to effectively layer clothing vitally important.

I don't miss the cold of an upstate winter, but I do miss the holidays. Stay safe and warm everyone!

Winter in Japan

gene. You say you are in Japan, but it really depends on where you are in Japan. If you are on the southernmost islands, like Okinawa winter is similar to southern California. If you are on the island of Hokkaido you have WINTER! Enen on the main island of Honshu, the weather varies from north to south. Would have been nice to know exactly where you are.

I love winter

Winter has a charm and an old world romantic, nostalgic vibe that other seasons just don't have. I love snow, I loved the hushed feeling, everything that is connected with the winter season. I love driving around the snowy town and seeing how much prettier everything looks in snow. I just feel younger in the winter. In summer, the stifling heat makes it hard to breathe. I don't like sweating or feeling unclean. Winter is my season! I also love Fall.

I love winter

I have loved winter as far back in childhood as I can remember. I must admit though, living in southern California, I never have had to deal with snow unless we drove to the mountains after a winter storm. But I absolutely love the rain and our rainy season is Wintertime. I think my father passed his love of rain to me. I remember so many early rainy mornings in the '80s...Dad & Mom would pack us 3 kids in the car and we'd drive to La Jolla cove and the Children's Pool to watch the huge swells on the ocean and watch the huge waves crashing. It was so exciting.
And since we barely get rain over here in CA...I prefer it over sunny skies any day.

Winter Is For Kids

At 7 years-old, I loved winter. It could mean days off from School. It was a good time for taking the sled down steep hills. At 12 years-old, winter came to mean shovel and sweep the walkways. After the chores it was time to slide down the best hills in the neighbourhood. At 17, winter wasn't any fun at all. All I did was shovel and sweep the walk, stay inside, and pass the hours reading.

At 64 years-old, winter can go to Hell. These days, I feel cold even at 19º C. I now have more complaints about winter, but there is one good thing. I don't have to shovel snow.

Franky and his no more shoveling snow

Hey Franky,
Winter is crisp, clean, and wonderful. How about shoveling yourself with the one you want to grow old with , (? or find a loved one ) and snuggle under a quilt, all warm and comfy; to create some new memories for the winter. Just a smiling thought.
Peace and Blessed Be....

Franky and his snuggles

I like you way of thinking!! ;)

Winter fun!

I LOVE winter. Mostly because of the snow. There's always more high tech layers that can be added, but there's only so much you can take off in the heat of summer. Even that doesn't mean you are cool!
Plus, I come in two colors: white and red. Never brown. Summer means more skin showing, thus more sunblock. Clothes are far easier to put on.

Winter

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.

WINTER SOLSTICE

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

Winter

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.

Hello

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

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