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  • Writer's pictureAnne Hartley

Winter Solstice

Hello everyone, well we have Halloween and Thanksgiving behind us. Now we wait for the first day of winter and Christmas then New Years. Must folks are now in the cage but maybe there will be a warm day or two where we can ride. But putting your knees in the breeze this time of year requires warmer clothing plus leather. Be safe!

The first day of winter is December 21st. This day will have the least amount of sunlight and the longest amount of nightfall. Starting on December 22nd our days will start getting longer.

The winter solstice, also called the hibernal solstice, occurs when either of Earth's poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun. This happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern and Southern). For that hemisphere, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky. Either pole experiences continuous darkness or twilight around its winter solstice. The opposite event is the summer solstice. The winter solstice occurs during the hemisphere's winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the December solstice (usually 21st or 22nd December) and in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the June solstice (usually 20th or 21st of June). Although the winter solstice itself lasts only a moment, the term also refers to the day on which it occurs. The term midwinter is also used synonymously with the winter solstice, although it carries other meanings. Traditionally, in many temperate regions, the winter solstice is seen as the middle of winter, although today in some countries and calendars it is seen as the beginning of winter. Other names are the "extreme of winter" (Dongzhi), or the "shortest day". Since prehistory, the winter solstice has been a significant time of year in many cultures and has been marked by festivals and rituals. It marked the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun; the gradual waning of daylight hours is reversed and begins to grow again. Some ancient monuments such as Newgrange and Stonehenge are aligned with the sunrise or sunset on the winter solstice. The solstice may have been a special moment of the annual cycle for some cultures even during Neolithic times. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities, such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter reserves of food. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sightline pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). It is significant that at Stonehenge the Great Trilithon was oriented outwards from the middle of the monument, its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.

The winter solstice was immensely important because the people were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as "the famine months". In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances was not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but at the beginning of the pagan day, which in many cultures fell on the previous eve. Because the event was seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common. In cultures which used cyclic calendars based on the winter solstice, the "year as reborn" was celebrated with reference to life-death-rebirth deities or "new beginnings" such as Hogmanay's Redding, a New Year cleaning tradition.

Useless Facts:

1. THERE ARE ACTUALLY TWO FIRST DAYS OF WINTER: There is an astronomical first day of winter and a meteorological first day of winter. The meteorological first day of winter begins on December 1.

2. THE FIRST DAY OF WINTER IS USUALLY NOT THE COLDEST DAY OF THE YEAR. Even the though sun is at its most southern point on this day, the Earth continues to retain some of its heat for a little bit.


4. THE FIRST DAY OF WINTER HAS SOME OTHER HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE AS WELL. December 21st is actually the day that the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth

5. THE FIRST DAY OF WINTER DOES NOT ALWAYS HAPPEN ON DECEMBER 21. It can occur anytime between December 20 and December 23. This is because of the difference between the tropical year (the amount of time it takes the sun to circle to the exact same spot on the early) and our commonly used Gregorian calendar year.

6. THE WINTER SOLSTICE CAN AFFECT PEOPLE’S MOODS. Around the winter solstice is when SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) typically sets in.

7. The word ‘solstice’ originates from a Latin word, solstitium, which means ‘standing sun.’

8. On this day, the sun rays are directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, i.e., 23.5° south latitude.

9. It is the day between September and March when Earth’s Northern Hemisphere gets the least exposure to direct sunlight over the course of a day.

10. Our Earth orbits on a tilted axis. From September to March, the northern hemisphere gets less direct sunlight than the southern hemisphere, thus making the days shorter and the nights longer. The rest of the year, southern hemisphere gets less direct sunlight than the north. It’s the reason why we have different seasons.

11. This is the shortest day and longest night of the year, at times, even called the darkest day of the year.

12. Although it is the first official day of winter, it is not the coldest day of the year. The coldest days are in the months of January or February (in some places).

13. Usually astrologists describe the day as a ‘significant turning point’ or ‘a start of a new cycle’. It is thus believed to be a good time to slow down and introspect your life decisions.

14. All snowflakes have six sides due to hydrogen bonding with the coolest facts.

15. The Polar Plateau in Antarctica has the world’s coldest winter. The yearly average temperature is -72.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Local Events:

1. Speedway in Lights Nov. 18th to Jan. 7th

3. Grown & Sexy Johnson City VFW Nov 26th Cook out 11am to 4pm sale from cook-out go to help a child in need - then Dress to Impress Party at 7pm NO TENNIS SHOES, T-SHIRTS, HOODIES, OR BALL CAPS. Pre-sale $15, at the door $30 VIP $100 for more info: 423-557-7801

4. Winterfest Art Show Nov. 20th to Dec. 4th Sycamore Shoals

5. Bristol Christmas Parade 5pm Dec. 1st

6. Jonesboro Christmas Parade 7pm Dec. 2nd

7. Johnson City Christmas Parade 10:30am Dec. 3rd

8. Christmas at the Carter Mansion Dec, 3rd and 4th

9. Holiday Market 8am Pavilion Founder’s Park Dec. 10th

10. Elizabethton Christmas Parade 6pm Dec. 10th


1. Toys for Tots Ride 11am Dec. 3rd Starts at Greenville VFW rolls to Johnson City VFW


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