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Winter Solstice: The First Day of Winter


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.comToday, December 21st is the Winter Solstice, also known as the first day of winter, the shortest day of the year, or in some instances as midwinter.  Much like its partnering day, the Summer Solstice on June 21, the Winter Solstice is the official start of a new season. In this case, the Winter Solstice marks the day when the Earth’s axis is tilted farthest from the sun, thus giving us in Philadelphia and those regions north of the equator, the day with the least sunlight of the year.

While today is quite sunny out in Philadelphia –because it’s always sunny in Philadelphia, right? — the sun will be with us less than any other day of the year because the sun will be closer to the horizon. Thinking back to elementary science classes, you should recall that the earth rotates along an elliptical orbit around the sun. The Earth rotates off axis on an angle of about 23.44 degrees (it fluctuates slightly).  Put simply, today is the day when the angle is pointed away from the sun the most, giving us the least amount of sunlight.

What does this mean for us? It means that the sun will set in Philadelphia at about 4:39 today giving us about 9 hours, 19 minutes and 38 seconds of daylight.  So, you’d better make the most of the sun and this beautiful snow today while it lasts.


Some ideas to make the most of the Winter Solstice in Philadelphia:

  1. Take a photograph of the sun (with whatever camera –on your phone, your point and shoot—just use the view finder so you don’t stare at the sun too long) with something you see everyday in the foreground, such as the Philadelphia skyline, a favorite sign, a unique looking tree, etc.  Then compare it on another day around the same time.
  2. Being the shortest day of the year, means tonight is the longest night of the year, so enjoy some nocturnal activities!
  3. Text your friends at exactly 4:39 to say ‘good night.’
  4. Learn more about the Winter Solstice and some of the rituals to celebrate it.