Hello, winter solstice! The shortest day of 2023 is here. This is what it celebrates

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As the days get shorter and colder, the winter solstice approaches. It marks the day when people in the Northern Hemisphere experience the shortest day and longest night of the year.

While it brings the fewest hours of daylight, the significance of the winter solstice extends beyond its astronomical nature. The cultural and historical importance of this event is evident in traditions and festivals worldwide. Embracing the solstice offers an expression of the changing seasons.

As winter unfolds, the anticipation of longer days and the gradual increase of warmth and sunlight prompt consideration of how the changing seasons affect all life.

Here is everything you need to know about the 2023 winter solstice.

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What is the winter solstice?

The winter solstice is an astronomical event that occurs annually when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun. The winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks the official beginning of winter.

When is the winter solstice 2023?

The winter solstice occurs in late December In the Northern Hemisphere. This year it falls on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs around June 21 or 22.

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When exactly is winter solstice 2023?

According to Time and Date, you'll be able to see the winter solstice sunset in Arizona at 5:24 p.m. on Dec. 21.

When does winter 2023 start?

Astronomical winter officially starts on the winter solstice, according to the Farmers Almanac. The solstices are astronomical events determined by the Earth's axial tilt and its orbit around the sun, and they mark the beginning of their respective seasons. Meteorological winter starts about three weeks before astronomical winter.

Winter solstice traditions

Many cultures have celebrations and festivals associated with the winter solstice. Examples include Yule in Germanic and Norse traditions, Dongzhi in East Asia and Inti Raymi in the Andes.

What are 3 things about the winter solstice?

Here are a few facts according to timeanddate.com:

  • The the word "solstice" is derived from Latin words meaning "sun" and "to stand still." During the winter solstice, the sun appears to pause in its movement along the horizon before reversing its direction.

  • Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in England, is aligned with the winter solstice sunrise. The sun rises precisely over the Heel Stone and aligns with the central Altar Stone, indicating that the ancient builders had a sophisticated understanding of astronomy.

  • On Dec. 21, 2012, corresponding to the date in the Maya Long Count calendar, there were speculations that the world might end, as it marked the completion of a 5,126-year cycle. Some feared cataclysmic events; others anticipated a New Age transformation. Ultimately, neither prediction materialized.

What does winter solstice celebrate?

The spiritual significance of the winter solstice lies in its symbolic representation of rebirth, renewal and the triumph of light over darkness.

Across diverse cultures and spiritual traditions, this celestial event is viewed as a time for inner reflection, personal transformation and the release of old patterns. Celebrated with festivals and rituals involving light, the winter solstice embodies hope, wisdom and spiritual enlightenment, according to Slow North.

Winter solstice spiritual meaning

The winter solstice itself is not a pagan holiday, but it has been celebrated and observed by various cultures and religions, including some pagan traditions.

Paganism is an umbrella term that encompasses a diverse range of spiritual and religious beliefs that are not part of the major world religions. Some pagan traditions have specific celebrations or rituals associated with the winter solstice.

One well-known example is the celebration of Yule, which is observed by some modern pagan and Wiccan communities. Yule marks the winter solstice and is a time to celebrate the return of the sun and the lengthening of days. It often involves lighting candles, bonfires and other symbolic acts representing the triumph of light over darkness, according to Britannica.

How does the winter solstice affect us?

The winter solstice can have physical and psychological effects on humans due to the changes in daylight and environmental conditions, according to Well Being Trust:

  • Seasonal affective disorder: A type of depression that occurs at specific times of the year, often during the winter when daylight hours are shorter. The reduced exposure to sunlight during the winter solstice can contribute.

  • Circadian rhythms and sleep patterns: The decrease in daylight during the winter solstice can affect the body's internal clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Reduced exposure to natural light may lead to sleep disruptions and reduced sleep quality.

  • Vitamin D production: Limited sunlight exposure, particularly in northern latitudes, can affect the body's ability to produce vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in bone health and immune function.

  • Mood and energy levels: Some people may feel a decrease in energy and motivation during the darker winter months, commonly referred to as the "winter blues."

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Winter solstice 2023: Today is the shortest day of the year