Neopagan Wheel of Year with Winter Solstice
The Astronomy of the Winter Solstice
This year, 2023, the Winter Solstice occurs on Thursday, December 21, 2023 at 7:27 pm PST; 9:27 pm CST; 10:27 pm EST; Friday, December 22, 3:27 UTC.
The Winter Solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight in the whole year, making it the “shortest day” of the year. After the Winter Solstice is reached, the days begin to once again grow longer and longer until the Summer Solstice—the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. Although the Winter Solstice means the start of the Winter season, it also means the return of more sunlight, which seems somewhat paradoxical. The Winter Solstice marks the official beginning of “astronomical winter” (as opposed to “meteorological winter,” which starts about three weeks prior to the solstice).
At the December solstice, Earth is positioned so the sun stays below the North Pole’s horizon. As seen from the latitude 23 1/2 degrees south of the equator, at the imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun shines directly overhead at noon. This is as far south as the sun ever gets, and all locations south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours. The Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere marks the 24-hour period with the fewest daylight hours of the year. That is why it is known as the shortest day of the year, or the longest night of the year. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you can notice the late dawns and early sunsets and the low arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might notice how low the sun appears in the sky at local noon. Around the time of the December solstice, it’s the longest noontime shadow of the year. The Winter Solstice is “the first day of Capricorn.” The Sun in Capricorn represents a new beginning of life force and resurrection from the dead of winter and a new initiatory power and strength as the days begin to increase in length. The present winter season in North America begins on the December 2023 Winter Solstice and ends on the March 2024 Vernal Equinox.
Celestial Dynamics of the Winter Solstice: The Seasons
Celestial Dynamics of the Winter Solstice: Earth's Axial Tilt & Procession of Equinoxes
Celestial Dynamics of the Winter Solstice: Sun-Earth Aphelion & Perihelion
Celestial Dynamics of the Winter Solstice: Earth's Orbital Path
For "The Astronomy of the Earth’s Orbital Dynamics for the Winter Solstice," click on pdf file icon
Thematic Images for the Winter Solstice