Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere occurs this year on December 21 at 12:04 Universal time. It also marks the beginning of winter.
In the Southern Hemisphere December 21 is the day of Summer Solstice, longest daylight…
Depending on the shift of the calendar the event of the winter solstice varies some time between December 20 and December 23 each year in the northern hemisphere and between June 20 and June 23 in the southern hemisphere.
For ‘Celtic’ countries, such as Ireland, the calendarical winter season has traditionally begun November 1 on All Hallows or Samhain. Winter ends and spring begins on Imbolc or Candlemas, which is February 1 or 2. This calendar system of seasons may be based on the length of days exclusively. Most East Asian cultures define the seasons by solar terms, with Dong zhi at the winter solstice as the middle or “extreme” of winter. This system is based on the sun’s apparent height above the horizon at noon. Some midwinter festivals have occurred according to lunar calendars and so took place on the night of Hoku (Hawaiian, the full moon closest to the winter solstice). And many European solar calendar midwinter celebrations still centre upon the night of December 24 leading into the December 25 in the north, which was considered to be the winter solstice upon the establishment of the Julian calendar. Persian cultures also recognize it as the beginning of winter.
Since the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun’s ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstitially based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay’s redding, a New Years cleaning tradition. Also reversal is another usual theme as in Saturnalia’s slave and master reversals.
Many outside traditions are often adopted by neighboring or invading cultures. Some historians will often assert that many traditions are directly derived from previous ones rooting all the way back to those begun in the cradle of civilization or beyond, much in a way that correlates to speculations on the origins of languages.