Shortest Day of the Year 2021 – Winter Solstice TODAY as Stonehenge could see crowds; plus horoscope, traditions & myths

WINTER solstice is upon us – but what is the exact date, and when is the sunrise and sunset?

The shortest day of 2021 falls today – Tuesday, December 21 – otherwise known as the winter solstice, marking the day of the year with the fewest sunlight hours.

The word solstice literally means, in Latin, that the sun is standing still.

That's because it marks the point when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun.

Read our Shortest Day of the Year live blog below…

  • Louis Allwood

    Relevance of Stonehenge

    The stones of Stonehenge have silently marked the Winter Solstice for thousands of years.

    They were shaped and set up to frame at least two important events in the annual solar cycle. 

    One is the midsummer sunrise at the summer solstice – the other is the midwinter sunset at the winter solstice.

    In Newgrange, Co Meath, during sunrise on the shortest day of the year, direct sunlight can enter the monument for 17 minutes.

    Not through the doorway, but through the specially contrived small opening above the entrance known as the “roof box” where it illuminates its chamber.

  • Louis Allwood

    When is the Winter Solstice?

    Today is the day of the Winter Solstice.

    It occurs twice – once for the northern hemisphere, and then again for the southern hemisphere.

    A winter solstice happens when one of Earth's poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun.

    Nights will be their longest, and the Sun will appear at its lowest elevation in the sky.

    In London, the sun rise happened at 8.03am.

    And it will set at a painfully early 3.53pm, giving Brits just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

  • Louis Allwood

    Winter Solstice messages (Continued…)

    “Winter forms our character and brings out our best.”
    – Tim Allen

    "Kindness is like snow. It beautifies everything it covers."
    – Khalil Gibran

    "The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon."
    – Gary Zukav

  • Louis Allwood

    Winter Solstice messages

    People can greet others on winter solstice by saying “Happy Solstice,” “Merry Yuletide,” and “Happy Yule”.

    Here are some inspirational messages to get you in the spirit for winter solstice.

    "The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time – a time to contemplate your immortality." 
    – Frederick Lenz

    "It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade."
    – Charles Dickens

  • Louis Allwood

    Watch from home

    Enlgish Heritage will be live streaming the sunrise on the morning of 22 December for free on our digital channels.

    Visit the official Stonehenge or English Heritage Facebook page, or the English Heritage YouTube channel.

    Remember – beware of fake/scam Facebook pages, events and groups that might have been set up.

  • Milica Cosic

    What is the Winter Solstice?

    Since the Earth is tilted on its axis, the arc the Sun moves through during the day will rise and fall across the year as the Earth’s pole points either towards or away from the Sun. 

    The winter solstice occurs at the minimum point for the northern hemisphere, when the Sun is lowest in the sky.

    At this time, the Earth's North Pole is pointing away from the Sun (which is why it is so much colder in the northern hemisphere). For people living in the southern hemisphere, the South Pole is pointing towards the Sun, making it summertime 'Down Under'.

  • Milica Cosic

    Does it cost any money to watch Solstice at Stonehenge?

    Winter Solstice at Stonehenge will take place on Wednesday 22nd December 2021.

    Admission is free of charge.

    Entry to the monument will be from approximately 07:45 (or when it is light enough to safely enter) until 10:00.

    All vehicles must vacate the car parks by 11am.

  • Milica Cosic

    How old is Stonehenge?

    Stonehenge is around 5,000 years old.

    Experts say that the monument was constructed between 3000 and 2000 BC.

    Instantly recognisable from the surrounding roads, Stonehenge is made up of a ring of standing stones – each of which are around 13ft (4.1 metres) high, 6ft 11in (2.1m) wide and weighing 25 tons.

    It was built in three stages.

  • Milica Cosic

    Best places to view Solstice

    It’s worse news for Alaskan residents, however.

    If you live in Anchorage, you’ll get just 5 hours and 27 minutes of daylight.

    That’s with a 10.14am sunrise and a 3.41pm sunset.

    Anywhere is lucky compared to Norway’s Tromsø, however.

    The extreme-north town not only has no daylight on December 21, but experiences total night for the entire month.

    If you live there, you’ll have to make do with polar light and artificial illuminations throughout December.

  • Milica Cosic

    Explained: Where is Stonehenge?

    The site of Stonehenge is located on Salisbury Plain in Amesbury, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury in Wiltshire, England.

    Stonehenge was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1986, and is one of the most Instagrammed tourist attractions in Britain.

    It can be seen from the A303 as you drive past.

    The site is a two-and-a-half hour drive from London, and an hour from Bath or Southampton.

  • Milica Cosic

    Is the solstice on the same day every year?

    The winter solstice always falls between December 19 and 22.

    Most years, it falls on the 21st in the UK, but sometimes it lands a little bit off-kilter, because it takes the Earth 365 and a quarter days to go around the sun.

    This extra quarter day is why we add a day to the calendar every four years with a leap year – to stop the dates drifting gradually through the seasons.

    For the same reason, solstices and equinoxes are not always on the same day every year.

  • Milica Cosic

    How to get to Stonehenge for Wednesday's sunrise

    There will be a bus service on the morning of 22 December operating between Salisbury New Canal Street, Salisbury Rail Station, Amesbury The Centre and the Stonehenge Car Park.

    Please visit Salisbury Reds website for a timetable nearer the time.

    The Visitor Centre is approximately a 20 minute walk from the Stonehenge Monument Field. Visitors with accessibility needs will take priority on shuttle buses. Those visitors who are able to do so should dress for the walk in sturdy shoes and bring a torch.

  • Milica Cosic

    Is December 21 the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere?

    December 21 marks our winter solstice, but it's the summer solstice if you head beneath the equator.

    In the southern hemisphere, the seasons are flipped compared to ours.

    That means December, January and February are the height of summer in countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

    So the December 21 solstice falls in the middle of their summer, while the June solstice is their winter.

  • Milica Cosic

    Live stream the Stonehenge event from home

    Enlgish Heritage will be live streaming the sunrise on the morning of 22 December for free on our digital channels.

    Visit the official Stonehenge or English Heritage Facebook page, or the English Heritage YouTube channel.

    Remember – beware of fake/scam Facebook pages, events and groups that might have been set up.

  • Milica Cosic

    When is winter solstice 2021 date?

    The winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight each year.

    It occurs twice – once for the northern hemisphere, and then again for the southern hemisphere.

    The winter solstice 2021 date for the northern hemisphere is December 21.

    A winter solstice happens when one of Earth's poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun.

    Nights will be their longest, and the Sun will appear at its lowest elevation in the sky.

  • Milica Cosic

    Covid regulations in place for Stonehenge gathering

    Winter Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge will take place at sunrise on Wednesday 22 December 2021, subject to public health advice and guidelines nearer the time.

    English Heritage encourages attendees to take a lateral flow test before arriving, and remind you that you must not attend if you test positive or have Covid symptoms.

    Masks are mandatory on our shuttle buses and on public transport to and from the event.

    Guests are also encouraged to wear masks during the event to help keep everyone safe. Hand sanitising stations will be provided.

  • Milica Cosic

    Where to see the Solstice from around the world

    The sunrise on a winter solstice will be much later than in summer months.

    In London, you'll be able to see the sun rise at 8.03am.

    And it will set at a painfully early 3.53pm, giving Brits just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

    In New York, the city gets a little more daylight. The sun will rise at 7.16am and set at 4.31pm, giving Manhattan residents 9 hours and 15 minutes of daylight.

    And it's even better over in Los Angeles. The Californian city sees sunrise at 6.54am and sunset at 4.47pm – a much more generous 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.

  • Milica Cosic

    Who built Stonehenge?

    Part of what makes Stonehenge so mysterious is that it was produced by a prehistoric culture with no written records.

    Scientists regularly debate over how and why Stonehenge was built, and what it was used for.

    Archaeologists believe it was constructed by three groups – the Neolithics, the Beaker people and the Wessex Peoples – who are said to have finalised the site into what we see today.

    The latest theory, advanced by archaeologist and writer Mike Pitts, is that the rocks were there "millions of years before humans arrived".

    His theory, which was published in British Archaeology, suggest that the rocks' alignment with the solstice sun was merely a coincidence.

  • Milica Cosic

    How is Winter Solstice celebrated at Newgrange?

    The winter solstice was one of the most important celebrations in the pre-Christian world.

    It usually occurs on 21 or 22 December, when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Capricorn.

    All over the Northern Hemisphere, there were ancient festivals marking the shortest days of the year when the sun appeared to “stand still.”

    Solstice is from the latin sōlstitium which translates as Sun stop or Sun still.

    Several of these festivals have survived to this day and others have been incorporated into modern festivals.

    In Ireland, the winter solstice has been marked for at least 5000 years.

  • Milica Cosic

    How does Stonehenge connect with Summer and Winter Solstices?

    Stonehenge is a monument that aligns to the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset.

    On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the Stone Circle, and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

    Summer solstice takes place as one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt toward the sun and the sun reaches its highest position in the sky, ensuring the longest period of daylight in the year.

    It is believed that Winter and Summer solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.

  • Milica Cosic

    What is the history of Winter Solstice at Newgrange?

    The spectacular Síd in Broga cairn at Newgrange was built around 3300 BC in precise alignment with the rising sun over the solstice each winter.

    The monument is an imposing testament to the importance of the time of year for our ancient ancestors.

  • Milica Cosic

    When was the Summer Solstice this year?

    The summer solstice began on Monday, June 21 at 04.31am UK time.

    But this doesn't mean that it falls on June 21 every year.

    The summer solstice can occur between June 20 and June 22 each year depending on when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer at midday.

    It is the day with the longest period of daylight and the shortest night of the year.

    This is because the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most aligned with the sun, providing us with the most daylight of the year.

    After June 21, the nights will begin to close in as our planet rotates with the northern hemisphere tilting further from the sun.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Best places to view Solstice

    It’s worse news for Alaskan residents, however.

    If you live in Anchorage, you’ll get just 5 hours and 27 minutes of daylight.

    That’s with a 10.14am sunrise and a 3.41pm sunset.

    Anywhere is lucky compared to Norway’s Tromsø, however.

    The extreme-north town not only has no daylight on December 21, but experiences total night for the entire month.

    If you live there, you’ll have to make do with polar light and artificial illuminations throughout December.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Is December 21 the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere?

    December 21 marks our winter solstice, but it’s the summer solstice if you head beneath the equator.

    In the southern hemisphere, the seasons are flipped compared to ours.

    That means December, January and February are the height of summer in countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

    So the December 21 solstice falls in the middle of their summer, while the June solstice is their winter.

  • Joseph Gamp

    What is Newgrange known for?

    Newgrange is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the Winter Solstice sun.

    Above the entrance to the passage of the mound there is an opening called a roof-box.

    On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 metre passage and into the chamber.

    As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated.

    For the second year in a row, the Office of Public Works (OPW), in partnership with the National Monuments Services (NMS) will broadcast the phenomenal event that marks the passing of the longest night of the year live.

    Source: Read Full Article