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Winter Solstice 2016: What the Shortest Day of the Year Really Means

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Winter Solstice 2016
Winter Solstice 2016

For those who are wondering when the long days are going to end and the moon shine longer, the long wait is over per earthsky.org. Winter solstice will happen this Wednesday, which marks the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the time when the North Pole is tilted far, far away from the sun- 23.5 degrees, to be exact. For this year, that exact moment falls at 5:44 a.m. EST on December 21.

Even if it marks the beginning of astronomical winter, winter solstice marks the shift towards increasing daylight hours. Furthermore, this is something to be cherished by many cultures all throughout history. This has always been considered a very significant event.

Winter Solstice for Pagans

Five thousand years ago, when people harvested crops as a means for survival, the sun and the seasons were of utmost importance. Because of this, the winter solstice was considered as a rebirth. This marked the beginning of lighter days. Ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Egyptians and Romans made offerings to the gods as a means for celebrating the sun’s return. One of the longest pagan celebrations of the winter solstice is known as the German festival of Yule. Aside from offering sacrifices to the god Odin, it was also an occasion for so much camaraderie. There are feasts, singing and ale drinking.

Winter Solstice at the Stonehenge

Up to this day, the winter solstice celebrations continue. One of the most prominent locations of this festive event is at the Stonehenge. This English historical landmark is believed to have been manually made thousands of years ago. The Celtic druids are lined up with the exact position of the sunset during winter solstice. This festival featured animal offerings, eating and drinking. This year, people, druid or not, are given free admission to the site so that they can observe what it?s like.

Winter Solstice and Christmas

Winter solstice festivities live on with Christmas as well. Lots of traditions of Yule are connected to the Christian holiday. This includes the Yule Log, which was burnt during the Yule celebrations back in the ancient times and today has been made into a yummy treat. Mistletoe, Christmas trees and gift-giving also started out with the winter solstice.

No date is given for Christ’s birth in the bible. Originally, it is Easter that is given much more significance in the Christian calendar. But on the fourth century, Christmas celebrations began. Some believed that the December 25 date was chosen for Christmas because this coincided with the Roman winter solstice celebration of Saturnalia.

Also read: Who Wants Bill Gates as a Secret Santa; Just Join Reddit’s Annual Secret Santa Event

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