Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Winter Solstice, Here\\\'s Your Need To Know

Winter Solstice, Here's Your Need To Know

The Debrief: Today marks the winter solstice, aka the shortest day of the year

Where were you at 04.49am this morning? Either you were fast asleep, still at your Christmas party or one of around 7,000 people gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to watch the sun come up. 

Just in case you overslept, the reason the crowds gathered at the prehistoric stone circle was because today is the winter solstice. 

Let’s get celestial

What exactly is the winter solstice? Well, it’s all totally astrological, actually. It’s the shortest day of the year, because it’s when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. 

Today will last just 7 hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds in Britain. The good news is that this marks the start of longer days – from now on the days will gradually begin to get lighter, until next year’s summer solstice when they will, once again, get shorter. 

Druid vibes 

Stonehenge is a popular destination for modern-day druids and pagans because it’s said to align with the sun on the winter solstice, when the midwinter sun sets between the two upright stones of its great trilithon (that’s the two massive stones with another massive stone balanced on top of them). 

The winter solstice was traditionally when cattle were slaughtered, so that animals wouldn’t need to be fed during the winter, and also when most of the wine and beer was fermented. And the classic Christmas carol In The Bleak Midwinter also refers to the winter solstice. 

It’s Latin, mate 

Just in case you need to brush up on your druid, the term ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin word ‘solstitium’, meaning ‘sun standing still’. 

Why does it matter?

Senior Druid, King Arthur Pendragon, said that the solstice celebrates the coming of the new sun. 

He told the BBC, ‘This is the dawn we’ve been waiting for, this is the dawn the ancients cared about so much. After this, they knew the days were going to get longer with the return of hope and renewal.’

What could the solstice mean for you?

Well, aside from the fact that it’s the longest day and shortest night of the year, UK weather forecasters predict that this will be the warmest winter solstice on record, so that bulky winter coat may not be needed. 

Beyond such practical implications, there are far more ethereal things to take into account. 

Mystic Mamma says it’s all about rebirth: ‘This year’s solstice definitely opens a symbolic doorway. It is indeed a time of accelerated transformation and big transitions. The momentum for change and transformation is real.’

It’s nearly the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 – that giant blank slate on the horizon. So, it’s probably a good time for change, for moving on and starting afresh. 

Solstice or no solstice, that seems pretty sensible. Go with the natural rhythms of life, why not. Out with the old and in with the new. 

It’s also very, very, nearly, Christmas. 

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