Posts Tagged ‘winter solstice’


Sunrise December 20, 2015.

December Solstice (Winter Solstice) is on Monday, December 21, 2015 at 11:49 PM in Ottawa. That’s less than an hour away as I write this. Hurray! Turn-Around Day, when we begin the slow but inexorable march to spring. Today was 6 hours and 58 minutes shorter than the day at June solstice. Tomorrow will be less than a second longer. The next day, 4 seconds longer, as we move towards the light!

Last winter was long, snowy, and bitterly cold. By November 22, we already had a few inches of snow on the ground. So far this year, winter has hardly begun. We have enjoyed an extended fall season of mild temperatures and only a little dusting of snow a few days ago, which quickly melted away. Right now, it is 4 degrees C (40 F) and a light rain is falling. No matter what January and February have to offer, we have been spared a month of harsh weather and the winter will be shorter.

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Turn-Around Day


Solstice Breakfast

I love the winter solstice. Finally, after slipping and sliding ever deeper into the doldrums of winter, we begin the march to spring. Even though winter will surely be with us for a few more months, every day now brings us closer to the return of warm weather and longer days. Tuesday was the shortest day of the year. In the Ottawa area, the sun rose at 7.40 AM and set at 4.23 PM, for a total of 8 hours, 42 minutes and 50 seconds of sunlight. Today, Wednesday, the day will stretch to 8 hours, 42 minutes and 51 seconds. Okay, this is going to take a while. But still. At least we’re heading in the right direction.

I would have liked to capture the solstice sunrise, but there was no sunrise to be seen, just a dull, grey sky. Instead, here are the horses and donkeys enjoying their solstice breakfast, apparently unconcerned about the passing of the seasons.

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Hurray! Turn-around day!

The winter solstice occurs exactly when the earth’s axial tilt is at its maximum angle away from the sun. The exact time of winter solstice just lasts a moment, but the term is used colloquially to refer to the day on which it occurs. In Ottawa, winter solstice occured at 12:47 PM on December 21st. On the 21st, the day length was 8 hours, 42 minutes and 49 seconds. On the 22nd, the day will be 8 hours, 42 minutes and 51 seconds, with the sun rising at 7:40 and setting at 4:23 PM. Yay! Two whole seconds more of daylight! Well, it may not seem like much but it isn’t long before those seconds add up. In a month, we’ll be up to 9 and a half hours, steadily marching towards the spring equinox.

The winter solstice has long been celebrated, with many ancient festivals associated with this date. The Christian recognition of Christmas adapted some pagan rituals of winter solstice into its celebration. The Christmas tree, for example, is thought by some to have originated with a pagan tradition of bringing evergreen boughs indoors and may be related to pagan tree worship. Here in the north, just knowing that the days have transitioned from shortening to lengthening is cause for celebration.


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