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Over the past six months, days have shortened and nights have lengthened in the Northern Hemisphere. But that is about to reverse itself.
The 2022 winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the official first day of winter, is on Wednesday, December 21 (after all, for a large part of the world). How this all works has fascinated people for thousands of years.
First, we’ll look at the science and exact time behind the summer solstice. Then we’ll explore some of the ancient traditions and celebrations around the world.
The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun appears at the southern pole, just above the Tropic of Cancer.
The situation is opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, where only about 10% of the world’s population lives. There, the December summer solstice marks the longest day of the year – and the start of summer – in places like Argentina, Madagascar, New Zealand and South Africa.
When exactly does it happen?
The summer solstice usually – but not always – occurs on December 21. The date when the solstice occurs is subject to change because the solar year (the time it takes for the sun to reappear in the same position as seen from Earth) doesn’t exactly match our calendar year.
If you want super-accurate observations, the exact time of the 2022 winter solstice will be 21:48 Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) on Wednesday, according to EarthSky.org and Farmer’s Yearbook. That’s almost six hours later than last year.
Here are some examples of 21:48 UTC for different local times in different parts of the world. Due to time zone differences, much of Asia will mark the winter solstice on Thursday, December 22.
• Tokyo: 6:48 a.m. Thursday
• Hanoi Vietnam: 4:48 a.m. Thursday
• New Delhi: 3:18 a.m. Thursday
• Istanbul: 12:48 a.m. Thursday
• Jerusalem: 11:48 p.m. Wednesday
• Copenhagen, Denmark: Wednesday 10:48 pm
• Charlotte, North Carolina: 4:48 pm on Wednesday
• Winnipeg, Manitoba: 3:48 p.m. Wednesday
• San Francisco: 1:48 pm Wednesday
• Honolulu: 11:48 a.m. Wednesday
To check the time where you live, the EarthSky website has a handy conversion table for your time zone. You can also try the conversion tools at Timeanddate.com, Timezoneconverter.com or WorldTimeServer.com.
Where to see and feel the effects of the winter solstice the most?
Daylight decreases significantly as you get closer to the North Pole on December 21.
people in balmy Singapore, just 137 kilometers or 85 miles north of the equator, barely noticed a difference, with only nine minutes of daylight less than the summer solstice. Almost a 12-hour day, give or take a few minutes, year-round there.
Much higher in latitude, Paris still logged on for a respectable eight hours and 14 minutes in broad daylight to enjoy a cool stroll along the Seine.
The difference is more obvious in the cold Oslo, Norway, where the sun will rise at 9:18 a.m. and set at 3:12 p.m., resulting in less than six hours of anemia during the day. Solar lights, anyone?
Resident Nome, Alaska, will be deprived of even more sunlight with just 3 hours 54 minutes 31 seconds very weak daylight. But that’s downright generous compared to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. It is located inside the Arctic Circle and will not see a single ray of sunshine.
What causes winter days to even happen?
Since the Earth is tilted on its axis, we have changing seasons. As the planet moves around the sun, each hemisphere experiences winter when it is tilted away from the sun and summer when it is tilted towards the sun.
Keep! Why is the Earth tilted?
Scientists aren’t entirely sure how this happens, but they think billions of years ago, when the solar system was forming, Earth was subjected to violent collisions that tilted its axis.
What other seasonal transitions do we mark?
The equinox, both spring and autumn, occurs when the sun’s rays hit the equator. In those two days, people everywhere have roughly equal length of day and night. The summer solstice is when the sun’s rays are furthest north above the Tropic of Cancer, giving us the longest day and the official start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
It’s no surprise that many cultures and religions celebrate a holiday – whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or a pagan festival – to coincide with the return of longer days.
Ancient peoples whose survival depended on precise knowledge of the seasonal cycles marked the first day of winter with elaborate ceremonies and celebrations. Spiritually, these celebrations symbolize opportunities for renewal.
Maria Kennedy, teaching assistant professor in the Department of American Studies at Rutgers University, told CNN Travel in an email: “Christmas carries many customs and probably its date on the calendar from pagan festivals. of the Romans Saturnalia and Kalends.
Saturnalia begins on December 17 and Kalends started on January 1, said Kennedy, who specializes in Christmas research.
Citing academic research, Kennedy said the early founders of the Christian church condemned the practices of these holidays, but their popularity persisted. The Christian Christmas was eventually arranged at the same time in the calendar, although there is no specific date set in the Gospels for the birth of Jesus.
Here is more information about some of those ancient customs:
Newgrange: Ireland’s astonishing feat of stone age engineering
In Welsh, “Alban Arthan” means “Light of Winter”, according to Farmer’s Yearbook. It may be the oldest harvest festival in the world. Part of the Druidic tradition, the winter solstice is considered a time of death and rebirth.
Newgrange, a prehistoric monument was built in Ireland around 3200 BC, associated with the Alban Arthan festival.
In ancient Rome, Saturnalia lasted for seven days. It honors Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture.
People like festivals like festivals like modern Mardi Gras celebration and even delay their war. Slaves were granted temporary freedoms and moral restrictions were relaxed. Saturnalia continued into the third and fourth centuries AD.
It wasn’t just the ancient Europeans who marked the occasion every year. The Dongzhi winter solstice festival has its roots in ancient Chinese culture. The name is roughly translated as “extreme of winter.”
They think this is the peak of yin (from Chinese medicine theory). Yin symbolizes darkness, cold and stillness, hence the longest day of winter. Dongzhi marks the return of yang – and the gradual increase of light and warmth. Dumplings are commonly eaten to celebrate in some East Asian cultures.
Many parts of the world often hold festivals in honor of the winter solstice. Some of them include:
Known more for pirates than for the summer solstice, the town of Penzance on the southwest coast of England has revived a delightful tradition of a Cornish procession – along with dancing, masking, singing and more.
The UK’s most popular site for solstice celebrations is Stonehenge. On the winter solstice, visitors traditionally enter the towering, mysterious rock circle to attend a sunrise ritual organized by local groups of monks and pagans.
In Canada, Vancouver Winter Solstice Lantern Festival is a shimmering celebration of summer solstice traditions spread across Granville Island, the neighborhoods of Strathcona and Yaletown.
Katia Hetter and Autumn Spaanne of CNN contributed to this article.