Winter is coming; Everything you need to know about the shortest day of the year

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Winter begins late Monday night. The winter solstice marks the date when nights are longest and days are shortest in the Northern Hemisphere.

First day of astronomical winter

In the Northern Hemisphere, the December Solstice also marks the start of the winter season. Winter ends on the March equinox.

For meteorologists, winter began three weeks ago on December 1.


Most people celebrate the whole day as the December Solstice, however, the solstice happens at a very specific time when the North Pole is tilted furthest (23.5 degrees) away from the sun and directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. In Dayton, the winter solstice is at 11:49 p.m. Monday, December 21, 2015.

The December Solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22 or 23 though December 20 or 23 solstices are rare. The last December 23 solstice was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303.

For a complete listing of the dates of the winter and summer solstice’s and spring and fall equinox’s through 2020, check out this site from the U.S. Naval Observatory.




The time after the winter solstice also marks the lengthening of days.

“By New Years Day we will have 11 more minutes of daylight than today,” said WATE 6 Storm Team Chief Meteorologist Matt Hinkin. “A month from now we are talking about 40 minutes more day light.”

Matt Hinkin said there will be longer and longer days until the summer solstice, which is the first day of summer and also the longest day of the year.

Southern Hemisphere

In the Southern Hemisphere, the December solstice is opposite. It marks the longest day of the year. The sun will be directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn and is closer to the horizon than any other year.

Meaning of solstice

The Latin word for sun is sol. Solstice means standing still.

“The suns appears to be standing still as it reaches it’s southern most point in orbit,” said Matt Hinkin.



Each year visitors from around the world gather at Stonehenge. The ancient ruins are carefully aligned on a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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