Winter Solstice | Summer Solstice
As the Earth travels around the Sun in its orbit, the north to south position of the Sun changes over the course of the year due to the changing orientation of the Earth's tilted rotation axes. The dates of maximum tilt of the Earth's equator correspond to the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice.
Solstices occur when the sun is at its greatest distance from the equator.
Solstice is derived from two Latin words: "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere" to cause to stand still.
The perception that the "sun stands still" comes from the shadow on the sun dial changing minimally on and near the solstices.
Solstices occur twice a year.
The Winter Solstice, also called 'Yule', marks the first day of the season
of winter. It falls on or near 21 December.
(In the southern hemisphere, the Winter solstice is celebrated in June when the northern hemisphere celebrates the Summer solstice)
The Winter solstice is the time in December when the sun reaches its southern most latitude and therefore appear at its lowest in the sky at noon. The Winter solstice is the shortest day.
The North Pole leans away from the sun.
Higher and higher
the Winter solstice the Sun follows a higher and higher path through the sky each
day until it is in the sky for exactly 12 hours. This occurs on the Spring Equinox.
After the Spring Equinox, the Sun still continues to follow a higher and higher path through the sky, with the days growing longer and longer, until it reaches it highest point in the sky on the Summer Solstice.
Winter Solstice traditions
Diagram showing the path of the sun during each season
The sun is higher in the sky during the summer months.
The Summer solstice, also called 'Litha', marks the first day of the season
of summer. It falls on or near 21 June.
(In the southern hemisphere, the Summer solstice is celebrated in December when the northern hemisphere celebrates the Winter solstice)
The Summer solstice is the time when the sun reaches its northern most latitude and therefore appear at its highest in the sky at noon. At this time of year we have the longest day.
The North Pole leans more directly toward the sun than it does on any other day of the year.
Lower and Lower
After the summer solstice the Sun follows a lower and lower path through the sky each day until it reaches the point where it is in the sky for exactly 12 hours again. This is the AutumnEquinox.
After the Autumn Equinox the Sun will continue to follow a lower and lower path through the sky and the days will grow shorter and shorter until it reaches its lowest path on the Winter Solstice.
Read more about the Summer Solstice (Longest Day)