The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year. The word 'solstice' derives from Latin and means "sun stands still." Picture: Seppo Sirkka / Finland Today

The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year. The word ‘solstice’ derives from Latin and means “sun stands still.” Picture: Seppo Sirkka / Finland Today

Today’s the shortest day of the year. The December solstice, which is celebrated annually in Finland on December 21 or 22, marks the longest night and shortest day at the Northern Hemisphere.

The solstice occurs because the earth orbits the sun while tilted at a certain angle so that the Northern and Southern Hemispheres receive unequal amounts of sunlight. December solstice marks the point when half of the globe is tilted away from the sun at its most extreme angle. Lack of sun makes the winter solstice the darkest day of the year.

The December solstice is actually a specific moment in time when the sun is exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. This year in Finland, the exact time is at 12:44 in the afternoon.

The effects of the solstice are hard to see by the naked eye, unless you are in Ireland, visiting Newgrange, a huge Stone Age tomb mound built around 3200 B.C. There’s a chamber where the dead may have once been laid and in the chamber, there’s a window from which the chamber bathes in solstice light for 17 minutes.

 

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