Winter:It’s Going to be a Long Night

by Melody Morrow

There are many commercial holidays/celebrations to share this time of year, which can be wonderful. There are however more “natural” celebrations based around the clock, the earth, the moon, the planets, the stars and the sun. Today, different cultures and religions have come to honor ancient traditions by dancing, singing, feasting, exchanging simple gifts and more. Some design their own traditions.

The Winter Solstice lands on Tuesday, December 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere at 5:30 in the morning. The date usually falls out on either the 21st or 22nd of December. Although some may say this can be a religious observance, for others like science-enthusiasts, the winter solstice is an interesting astronomical occurrence that offers an opportunity to celebrate what we have managed to learn about the cosmos. It also affords us the chance to revel in the excitement of space exploration and the complexity of the universe. The northern hemisphere comprises half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere. Earth‘s northern hemisphere contains most of the planet’s land, and roughly 90% of its human population.

Wikipedia describes the winter solstice as occurring exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the star that it orbits. The word Solstice is derived from Latin ‘sol’.  It means sun and ‘sistere’ which means to cause to stand still because at the solstices, the Sun movement of the Sun’s path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction. The winter solstice lasts only a moment in time. Other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as midwinter, the longest night or the first day of winter and the day when there is the least amount of light out of any other day.

Solstices appear on the shortest and longest days of the year. June 20th or 21st is when the Summer Solstice takes place. In conversation we may say wow this seems like the longest night, but in fact the Winter Solstice truly is. We can begin to celebrate the coming of the warmer months and more light. Given the hard winters thrust upon us in the Northeast in recent years, it’s a good benchmark to enjoy. You can look at it as the next day is the beginning of shorter nights and longer days of light!

For all you photography buffs, the picture showcased for this story was shot during a lunar eclipse on a winter full solstice moon. It was taken on December 20, 2010 in Liard River Indian Reserve 3, British Columbia, CA. December 21st, 1638 was the last time there was a lunar eclipse on a winter solstice full moon.

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