Farmers Almanac
The Farmers Almanac
Order your copy today!

Wednesday’s Solstice – Will The Sun Stand Still?

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Subscribe by Email Print This Post
Wednesday’s Solstice – Will The Sun Stand Still?

The winter solstice, also known as midwinter, is an astronomical, as well as cultural, event. It’s the precise moment (for all of us on Earth, no matter where you live) when the winter season begins. At the moment of the winter solstice, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun is at its greatest distance from the equatorial plane and shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn and gives us our shortest day and longest night of the year in terms of daylight.

The solstice can occur any time between December 20th and December 23rd; this year, it occurs on Wednesday, December 21st at 5:44 a.m. EST.

So what’s actually going on?

The Sun Stands Still?
The word “solstice” comes from the Latin sol, meaning Sun, and sistere, meaning to stand still. Upon the winter solstice, the Sun appears at its lowest point in the sky for the year (which you will see on the December 2016 calendar page in your 2017 Farmers’ Almanac). The Sun’s gradual decrease in the sky reverses upon the winter solstice, marking what many cultures believe to be a “rebirth” of the Sun as the hours of daylight become longer.


At the point of the winter solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the Sun stays below the north pole horizon. This is as far south as the Sun will ever be for the year.

Essentially, our hours of daylight — the period of time each day between sunrise and sunset — have been growing slightly shorter each day since the summer solstice of June 20th, which was the longest day of the year of 2016 (at least in terms of light). After December 21st, the days will begin to grow longer and will continue to do so until we reach the summer solstice again (on June 21, 2017, at 12:24 a.m. EDT) and begin the whole cycle anew.

At the point of the winter solstice, the Sun has been steadily moving south and is now  shining at the Tropic of Capricorn, the farthest south it will get all year.

Fun Fact: Be sure to check out your noontime shadow — it will be the longest noontime shadow of you of the year!

The winter solstice has been celebrated since ancient times. Throughout the centuries, celebrations included family gatherings, festivals, singing, dancing, and the burning of fires throughout this longest night of the year.


1 Susan Higgins { 12.21.16 at 2:46 pm }

Hi Vic Drone, we have corrected the portion of the copy where “for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere” appears. Thank you!

2 Vic Drone { 12.21.16 at 1:38 am }

I believe, the last time I checked, and according to your enclosed graphic, the Tropic of Capricorn is in the “Southern Hemisphere”.

Leave a Comment

Note: Comments that further the discussion of the above content are likely to be approved. Those comments that are vague or are simply submitted in order to promote a product, service or web site, although not necessarily considered "spam," are generally not approved.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

Spring Is Here – Sign Up Today!

The Farmers' Almanac is a gardener's best friend. Get 365 days of access to our online weather and gardening calendars + a copy of the 2017 Almanac
for only $13.99 $11.99!

Subscribe Today »