Winter solstice, the 'shortest' day of the year, arrives Thursday


The good news for sunlight seeking Northern Hemisphere natives is that the days start getting longer beginning Friday - and they can start counting down to spring. As we get closer to Daylight Savings, the days will gradually get just a little bit longer, with more sunlight. That's the home of the account's creator, web developer and npm CTO Laurie Voss. Today at 11:28 a.m., the sun hit its lowest point - meaning that today will be the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year, with the sun going down at approximately 4:32 p.m.

Here's the Google Doodle honoring the summer solstice, for folks Down Under. The first day of winter.

Of course, our long winter night pales in comparison with Alaska, where the sun barely climbs above the horizon for three to four hours in much of the Last Frontier.

But the solstice doesn't come on the same day each year - it can range from 20-23 December and 20-22 June - because of the discrepancy between our calendar of 365 days a year and the solar year which actually measures 365.2422 days.

And that's why, for millennia, humans have celebrated the solstice-for the return of the sun that it marks.

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And in fact, the tradition of the Christmas tree may have its roots in such pre-Christian traditions associated with the solstice. Sunrise was at 8.03am GMT and sunset is at 3.53pm.

December 21 marks our winter solstice, but it's the summer solstice if you head beneath the equator.

Celebrations of returning light are common in history with feasts, festivals and holidays around the time of the winter solstice. "Ancient structures that allow you to track the shifting position of the sun between its extremes are found all over the world".

The prehistoric monument was built to align with the sun on this one morning every year, with the light hitting a special roofbox and illuminating the chamber.