If this term sounds familiar and you’re not sure what it means, you’re not alone. These are things that we probably learnt in school, but just because we don’t remember what it is, it does not mean we don’t have to know what it is. Here’s a little bit that you should know about this special day-

What is the Winter solstice?

It is known as the shortest day or the day where we see the least amount of sunlight. This takes place twice a year, once in the Southern Hemisphere and once in the Northern Hemisphere. This astronomical phenomenon occurs when one of the Earth’s poles (north or south) has its maximum tilt away from the Sun.

When is the winter solstice?

The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere can fall anywhere between the 20th of December to the 23rd of December. The most common date is 21st December. The change in date happens because the time the sun takes to return to the same spot relative to Earth is different and does not follow our calendar year calculation.

Does it happen at a specific time?

Yes, it happens at a particular time on the 21st of December. This time is calculated as per the moment when the North Pole is furthest away from the sun on the 23.5-degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. In India, this moment will happen at 21.58 Friday, December 2018.

Important events on this day

  • The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth on December 21, 1620
  • Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium
  • The Apollo 8 spacecraft launched, becoming the first manned moon mission
  • In 1891 the 1st game of basketball, based on rules by James Naismith was played
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs released in 1937, it was the first full-length animated film and the first Walt Disney movie.
  • Apart from these positive events, there were many earthquakes, tsunamis and natural disasters that took place on this date over the years.

Myths about the solstice

  • According to the stories passed on from pre-Islamic times, the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, was on this day, it is a triumph over darkness.
  • As it is the longest night, the Zoroastrian’s have lore that says evil spirits wander the earth on this night. It is also believed that the forces of spirit Ahriman are strongest on this night. To avoid any harm from the dark forces on this night, people are to stay up through the night and eat, talk, share poetry and stories etc.
  • Celtic and Germanic folklore also mention evil and spirits coming out on this night.
  • In the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar December 21, 2012, corresponds to the date 13.0.0.0.0. This marked the end of a cycle in the ancient Mayan calendar, a lot of people feared that this would mean the end of the world on this date.

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