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The Winter Solstice

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The Winter Solstice
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Clip Art for The Winter Solstice

Dixie Allan

 <p>The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol meaning sun and sistere which means to stand still. On the winter and summer solstices the sun appears, from the viewpoint here on earth, to halt in its journey across the sky and stop for a moment, having reached it’s northernmost or southernmost extreme. It then starts its journey back again.</p>
<p>A solstice occurs when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. This event happens twice every year, once in winter and once in summer. The perception that the sun stands still comes from the shadow on the sun dial changing minimally on or near the solstices.</p>
<p>On June 21 in the northern hemisphere the sun is at its furthest from the celestial equator and the length of time between sunrise and sunset is the longest of the year. After this date, the days start getting shorter. The summer solstice marks the first day of summer.</p>
<p>The summer solstice has generally been celebrated around the world as a time of fertility. The sun is at the height of its power, animals are mating and several plants are in full bloom. Many people and cultures practiced fertility rites and rituals at this time because they believed the gods would give them sexual power. In Poland, citizens like to celebrate the summer solstice with a festival called Wianki. Long before Christianity came to Poland, the pagan tribes of the area celebrated the summer solstice with an event that came to be known as Ivan Kupala Day. Once Christianity took hold in Poland, the festival was absorbed and came to be known as St. John’s Night. A similar celebration, Saint Jonas’ Festival, is held in Lithuania.</p>
<p>The winter solstice has generally been celebrated around the world as a pagan holiday. When Christianity came to Europe though, many of the traditions were taken by the new religion. In Christianity, the time of the solstice corresponded with and could be used to celebrate the nativity of John the Baptist, which is why the festival has taken on names having to do with Saint John. The pagans picked flowers they believed to contain healing powers during the time of the solstice, and they also lit the aforementioned bonfires because they believed the fires would ward off evil spirits who roamed the night as the sun reversed its course.</p>
<p>Here are the dates and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) of each solstice for the years 2013 through 2020:</p>
<ul>
<li>Summer-2013 June-21 GMT .05:04</li>
<li>Winter--2013 Dec--21 GMT .17:11</li>
<li>Summer-2014 June-21 GMT .10:51</li>
<li>Winter--2014 Dec--21 GMT .23:03</li>
<li>Summer-2015 June-21 GMT .16:38</li>
<li>Winter--2015 Dec--22 GMT .04:48</li>
<li>Summer-2016 June-20 GMT .22:34</li>
<li>Winter--2016 Dec--21 GMT .10:44</li>
<li>Summer-2017 June-21 GMT .04:24</li>
<li>Winter--2017 Dec--21 GMT .16:28</li>
<li>Summer-2018 June-21 GMT .10:07</li>
<li>Winter--2018 Dec--21 GMT .22:23</li>
<li>Summer-2019 June-21 GMT .15:5</li>
<li>Winter--2019 Dec--22 GMT .04:19</li>
<li>Summer-2020 June-20 GMT .21:44</li>
<li>Winter--2020 Dec--21 GMT .10:02</li>
</ul>

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