It's Winter Solstice today. Traditionally Winter Solstice marks the beginning of Christmas and New Year celebrations worldwide. Winter Solstice is that day of the year when we see fewest hours of daylight. After Winter Solstice, days start becoming longer and nights shorter for people in the Northern Hemisphere and it's just the reverse in the Southern Hemisphere. Let's take a look at when and why Winter Solstice happens, and the traditions associated with it. Countries and cultures have unique ways of celebrating Winter Solstice. This year, the day got more exciting as it coincides with the once in a lifetime celestial event, the 'Great Conjunction' of our two planetary giants, Jupiter and Saturn happening after nearly 400 years.
What is Solstice?
The world 'solstice' is derived from a Latin word meaning the 'stalled sun'. Both Summer and Winter Solstices are astronomical events marking the movement of the Sun and change in the duration of day and night time.
When is Winter Solstice?
Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, takes place between December 19 and 23. This year it is on Monday, December 21.
Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice Time and Date in India
(North America, Central America, Europe, Asia, northern Africa)
December Solstice in New Delhi, India is on 21st December, 15:32 IST
Why does Winter Solstice happen?
Around this time every year, countries in the Northern Hemisphere are farthest from the Sun and the Sun shines overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn. The Earth's axis is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees as it rotates around the Sun. This phenomena causes the movement of the Sun from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa bringing in seasonal changes in the year.
Winter Solstice: History and traditions
- Ancient Romans celebrated the day in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. A week-long celebration would lead up to the Winter Solstice.
- In the United Kingdom, people traditionally gather at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise and sunset on Winter Solstice. But this year, owing to the pandemic, the gatherings won't be allowed but people can watch it online. Historians and archeologists believe that Stonehenge was directly linked to tracking the annual movement of the Sun.
- A Winter Solstice in Japan is called Toji. The Japanese believe that the Sun gets stronger from this day, bringing with it good fortune for the people.
- The Chinese call the Winter Solstice Dong Zhi meaning 'winter arrives'. People celebrate and welcome the return of longer days.
- The ancient Norsemen in Scandinavia celebrated Yule on Winter Solstice. As the Sun returns to the Northern Hemisphere, men in the family would bring home large logs, which came to be known as Yule logs. People would light the logs and feast around it.
- Winter Solstice in Iran is called Chelleh night. Persians on Winter Solstice cook special food like lamb stew, dishes with dry walnuts and pomegranates. They light a fire, read poetry and sit together around a fire.