Winter Begins This Week

Horses in a snowy field

Despite the mild weather much of the country has seen this fall, it’s just about time for Old Man Winter to make his annual entrance.

The beginning of winter is known as the Winter Solstice.

This year, the season officially begins on either Monday, December 21st or Tuesday, December 22nd, depending on where you live.

In the Eastern Time Zone, winter begins at 12:30 a.m. on the 22nd.

But in the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones, it begins the night of the 21st.

The Winter Solstice always happens on or around December 21st.

It’s the day when the North Pole is tilting further away from the sun than it does all year long.

Because the Northern Hemisphere is tilting away from the sun, the sun is more distant from the hemisphere at this time of year.

That’s why it’s so cold in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months.

And because the sun is more distant from the Northern Hemisphere, it’s also less visible there.

In fact, it’s least visible in the Northern Hemisphere around December 21st.

That’s why the Winter Solstice is the day of the year with the fewest hours and minutes between sunrise and sunset.

The day after the winter solstice, the days start getting longer and longer – until around June 21st.

That’s the time of the Summer Solstice – the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the day with the most hours and minutes between sunrise and sunset.

“Solstice” is a Latin word.

It means “sun stands still.”

According to National Geographic News, the ancient Romans came up with that name because around the date of the solstice, the sun appeared to rise and set in the same place in the sky for two days in a row.

Many ancient cultures held celebrations on the date of the Winter Solstice.

Some experts say that was the ancients’ way of dealing with the “winter blues”  — depression caused by the relative lack of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year.

Before the coming of Christianity, people in Northern Europe called their Winter Solstice celebration “Yule.”

That name lives on today, in words associated with Christmas — words such as “yuletide” and “Yule log.”

Even though the Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere in terms of hours of sunlight, it’s usually not the coldest.

The reason?

The oceans.

At this time of year, the oceans still have some of the heat they absorbed during the hot summer months.

As winter goes on and the hours of sunlight remain relatively short, the oceans will continue to cool.

That means the coldest days of the year probably won’t come until late January or early February.

If that sounds depressing, look on the bright side.

Once we hit the Winter Solstice, the first day of spring is just 13 weeks away.