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A few days before we celebrate Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere comes the Winter Solstice, which is also known as the Hibernal Solstice, December Solstice or Midwinter. it is the day that has the shortest amount of daylight during the year.
December 21st or 22nd is the date of the winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and June 20th or 21st in the Southern Hemisphere. But what exactly is an solstice, what does it mean and how do you celebrate it?
The word solstice comes from Latin. "Sol" means sun in latin and the "stice" means to stand still. So the Winter Solstice is the day where the sun pauses at it's northern limit before reversing direction.
It also marks the first day of winter in the astronomical calendar.
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In the UK this you can pretty much guarantee that it will be a bit cold, although away from perhaps the Highlands of Scotland you are unlikely to find snow falling.
Many cultures celebrate midwinter, as a festival representing the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun. Around the world for millenia, humans have had festivals and carried out rituals in the deepest part of winter, probably to cheer themselves up at the most miserable time of year. Festivals of light are also common at this time of year.
The date of the Christian festival of Christmas is thought to have been chosen to coincide with pagan midwinter festivals, especially the Roman festival of Saturnalia rather than due to any historically accurate record of the actual date of Jesus' birth.
In pagan times you might have celebrated the winter Solstice by watching the sun rise on that morning. It is a popular day to converge on sacred sites such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire, although not as popular as the summer solstice - can't think why!
If you don’t want to get up quite that early, and if the weather allows, you can just get out into the great outdoors and enjoy the warm weather.
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