winter solstice Stonehenge: Today, Dec. 21, is the first official day of winter, otherwise known as the winter solstice. The day of a winter solstice is when we have the longest night and the shortest day of the year. For us in the northern hemisphere, it occurs late December.
Winter solstice has been celebrated in cultures all over the world for thousands of years. So what’s so special about this day with the longest night and the shortest day? Long ago, it was a very important happening that we needed to recognize because we had to grow our own food to stay alive.
People quickly learned weather played a huge part in growing crops as well as many other plants. The success of their food crops depended on remembering when to plant and to harvest, especially in colder northern areas.
winter solstice stonehenge
It was discovered the change in the days length was a very important clue for many plants and animals. These clues, such as longer or shorter daylight, help plants and animals determine when it’s time to produce seeds or fruits, migrate, reproduce or to even just shut down temporarily. Planting a crop of leafy greens in the middle of winter only to have a foot or more of snow bury it a few weeks later was not acceptable.
Saturday also sees the Full Cold Moon at 12:49 p.m. EST. The Moon will be at its highest in the sky for the entire year around midnight. What a sight that would be if there was snow on the ground to capture all of that moonlight! A true winter wonderland would be ours.
If you are up at least 30 minutes before dawn on Dec. 21 and 22, and you have a clear view of the southeast horizon, be sure to look for blazing Venus, the “Morning Star” — you can’t miss it. To the lower left of Venus, near the horizon, you will see two other somewhat bright “stars” — they are Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun, and, below that, Jupiter, the biggest of the planets. They will be about a degree apart and quite the sight, as you can see in my pics of them from this week.
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