Winter Solstice

We are about one week away from that planetary orbital reality, the Winter Solstice. As happens every day, the Sun appears in the East and sets in the West. We can count on that. The observed path of the Sun crossing the sky is a result of the Earth turning on its axis. The Earth’s axis tilt is what gives us seasons of the year, and the Winter Solstice for us in the Northern Hemisphere marks the time when our planet’s pole reaches maximum tilt away from the Sun. It marks the shortest day of the year north of the Equator, and the beginning of longer days to come. 

That event this year will occur on December 21, when we’ll experience seven hours and 14 minutes of daylight.
At 10:27 p.m. ET, Earth’s axis will be titled the farthest away from the sun.

Down through the ages the Winter Solstice has spawned a tradition of festivals and celebrations, a host of superstitions and even supernatural meanings to note the return of the sun. Old traditions surrounding the solstice have held some influence on religious holidays that we celebrate today, including Christmas and Hanukkah. Brittanica lists a half dozen solstice traditions still honored today across the world. 

A common thread running through these traditions that mark the seasonal change — the established rhythm of life on our planet — is the festival and its community celebration. It is a time when people come together, gathering to sing carols on doorsteps or as a tree is lighted in the town green. It’s when communities hold their version of a “festival of lights,” a communal recognition of the “return of the sun,” an ancient notion. Driving along our roads after dark is a visual treat, seeing how homeowners have decorated with brightly colored lights that outline the roofline of their home, or highlight the contours of a tree in the front yard. Blow-up Santas and reindeer beckon memories of childhood, and for children, fuel imaginations. 

In community after community, people come together to connect on common ground, even as we as a nation are increasingly polarized. America’s partisan divide continues to widen on issues such as gun control, abortion, global warming, immigration and others, including education and the role of the federal government. 

While as a people we may struggle to agree on political, cultural and other matters of society, it is an indisputable fact that the Earth rotates around the Sun and that on December 21 at 10:27 p.m. ET the Earth’s axis will be tilted the farthest away from the Sun. This celestial event is one that we share, just like the town holiday parades over the past few weeks and the roadside holiday decorations that make the season bright, appealing to us with a warm and sometimes whimsical spirit of community and meaning.

Let’s welcome the Winter Solstice.

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