The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. It occurs when the sun’s daily maximum height in the sky is at its lowest, and the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun. This results in the least number of daylight hours and the longest night of the year.
The Solstice is celebrated by druids and pagans as the ‘re-birth’ of the sun for the New Year. In the UK, thousands gather each year to mark the occasion at Stonehenge in Somerset.
When is it?
The Winter Solstice occurs in December in the Northern Hemisphere, and in June in the Southern Hemisphere.
The date itself is not fixed: the phenomenon doesn’t always occur on 21 December in the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes it arrives in the early hours of 22 December, which will happen next year. The hour also fluctuates: last year’s Solstice arrived at 17:11, whereas next year’s is predicted to be at 04:38.