When is the December Solstice?
The December Solstice marks the time at which the sun reaches its most southern point on the earth. Also called the Southern Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, this event usually occurs between December 20th and December 23rd every year.
Effects of December Solstice
This solstice has different effects on both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The December Solstice marks the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, while it marks the beginning of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. The sun is at -23.5 degrees during this time, which explains the wintry weather effects in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the exact opposite of the June Solstice, which marks summertime for the North, and winter for the South.
Other effects of the December Solstice are immediately noticed. In the Northern Hemisphere, the day the solstice occurs marks the shortest day of the year, with the fewest hours of sunlight. It’s no surprise that it’s the longest day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. When travelling over the North Pole, you would notice that there is no sunlight at all during this time.
The exact date of the December Solstice depends on the Gregorian calendar, which includes occasional variations such as Leap Year. December 21st is the most common date that this solstice occurs. In 2013, the December Solstice is set to occur on December 21st.
Types of Celebrations
Nowadays, most of us in the Northern Hemisphere recognize the December Solstice as a cold, short day. The coldness factor can vary between regions, but it is still the day with the shortest amount of daylight hours across the board. You’ll hear a reminder here and there from weather reports, or even notice the event on your calendar. In other countries, festivals are held to mark the solstice and its effects.
At numerous points in history, however, the December Solstice was taken a little more seriously. Ancient Wiccans regarded this solstice as the return of the sun god, while others in history simply held celebrations revolving the sun. Many celebrations revolved around bonfires; some households chose to store the ashes for good luck. Sometimes items were thrown into the bonfires, ranging from dolls to recently harvested fruit.
The December Solstice has also marked many significant events in history. Most recently, the Mayans predicted that the end of the world would occur on December 21, 2012—the same day of the solstice. This was in part due to the fact that the Mayan Calendar went no further than that date. The predictions of many failed to come to fruition; still, the December Solstice is considered a significant event in many cultures.
Before the December Solstice was worked into the Gregorian, or Western Calendar, it was once considered as a pagan event. Many scholars believe that Christmas Day was chosen to take place on December 25th in order to avoid the holiday to coincide with any of the possible dates of December Solstice.
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