As 2022 comes to an end, the official beginning of astronomical winter takes place on the 21st December.
On the day of the winter solstice, we are tilted as far away from the Sun as possible, which means that the Sun’s path across the sky is as low in the sky as it can be; if you stand outside at noon, your shadow will be the longest you’ll cast all year! It also means it is the shortest day of the year, marking the 24-hour period with the fewest daylight hours of the year.
As with the equinoxes, the solstices hold a significance across a variety of cultures, signalling the changing of the seasons.
Winter solstice has been celebrated since ancient times by cultures across the world. From the Roman feast of Saturnalia to the Pagan celebration of Yule, there are many ways our ancestors honoured the first day of winter.
Oak trees were seen as sacred to the Druids, and they would cut the winter fruit of the mistletoe and give it as a blessing at this time of year, symbolising life in the dark winter months.
The Celts would light a Yule log to burn throughout the solstice night as a symbol of hope and belief that the sun will return, as well as conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.
So, as the sun sets on the 21st December, it rises on the 22nd with the promise of longer and brighter days ahead.