The December solstice in 2020 occurs on Monday, December 21 at 10:02 UTC (4:02 a.m. CST; translate UTC to your time). It is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere (the first day of winter) and the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere (the first day of summer).
This year's winter solstice is being observed on Monday, December 21st at 3:04 am EST (10:04 UTC). The reason for this is because it is the earliest date since 1922 when the Christmas holiday was not celebrated due to World War I.
The winter solstice is when the amount of daylight in the northern hemisphere is at its minimum. In fact, in some parts of the country, you won't see dawn until around 9:00 am or later! The days start to get longer as we move into January, but not by much.
During the winter solstice, the sun is located directly over the equator, which means that it is rising due east and setting due west. This is different from the spring and fall equinoxes, where the sun is directly over the center of the earth during the daytime hours (i.e., it's still moving towards the north and south poles, but it's doing so at a constant speed).
In the Northern Hemisphere, the days are brief. The winter solstice occurs when the sun's position in the sky is at its maximum negative angular distance from the celestial equator. The winter solstice occurs every year between December 20 and 23 in the northern hemisphere. It is the day with the shortest hours of daylight during the year, although this depends on where you are located in the world.
The winter solstice is marked by the appearance of a certain constellation called "the Big Dipper". This term comes from the English language, where "dipper" means someone who dips their hand into a bucket or other container of water to get a drink. The big dipper is actually a large bowl shape that uses both hands to describe it. It can be seen just after sunset during the winter months in the north west part of the night sky.
The word "solstice" comes from the Latin word for "sunstands still". During a solstice, the sun is directly over the equator, which is why they occur at the exact point of the year when it is day and night simultaneously everywhere on Earth. Because of this, people had time to settle down and live peacefully because there was no work to do and no one went to war with each other because it was too dark out.
The winter solstice happens annually on December 21 or 22 in the northern half of the Earth (the Northern Hemisphere). (The winter solstice occurs on June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere.) The winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunshine in the whole year, making it the year's "shortest day."
People have been observing the winter solstice for many centuries. Early civilizations such as those in Europe and Asia recognized the importance of this moment: people would build huge halls where they could gather for worship and celebration. In some cases, these buildings still stand today; others have been destroyed over time, but many landmarks reveal that the early observers of the winter solstice were aware of exactly when Christmas would come each year.
Today, most people in the Western world enjoy Christmas daily through January 6, the beginning of the new year. But did you know that in some parts of the world, the winter solstice actually marks the end of the holiday season?
In Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and parts of Africa, the winter solstice does not signal the start of a new year, but rather the end of the summer holidays and the beginning of school days. People in these regions celebrate the winter solstice with parties and light displays, but they don't take any days off of work or school to mark the occasion.