What is a solstice? Simply put, a solstice is an event that happens when the sun reaches its maximum north or south excursion, similar to celestial sphere or equator. During this period, as evidenced from the earth, the sun's day to day path seasonal movement ceases at the southern or northern limits, prior to reversing direction. It results in either winter or summer solstice. Depending on your location in the world, this can result in either the shortest day of the year or the longest night of the year. So, what happens during winter solstice?
If you prefer to get literal, solstice meaning is formed from two Latin words; sol meaning sun and sistere which implies to stand still. Winter solstice 2019 just happened, and that means longer nights here in South Africa. The winter solstice date is the same, which means it happens at exactly the same date as other places in the world. The same is true for the summer solstice, which happens on 21 December. Equinox and solstice are different since the former leads to days and nights of equal lengths and it falls in a different season of the weather. The 4 seasons of the year in order in South Africa are autumn/fall (March-May), winter (June-August), spring (September-November), and summer (December-February).
Winter solstice South Africa 2019
When does winter start? What's the shortest day of the year in 2019? Based on the above four seasons of the year and their months in South Africa, it should not be a surprise that it is currently winter hence winter solstice Southern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, it signifies the start of the winter season. When is the 2019 winter solstice? The event happened yesterday, on 21 June 2019 at 5:54 PM in SA, which the same as 11:54 AM Eastern time. The sunset time today came earlier than usual and we will have delayed mornings, which should also answer the question: why is sunrise later after winter solstice? The sunset today was at around 5:04 PM local time in SA.
Conversely, in the Northern Hemisphere, yesterday signaled the start of summer. Why is this the case? You will have to remember how nights and days are formed, which is through the rotation of the earth on its axis, which takes 24 hours. As one side is facing the sun during the day, the other side experiences night. The same is true for the winter solstice. Presently, the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing lots of sunshine hence it is summer solstice for them. In December, when we are experiencing the summer solstice South Africa and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere, they will be starting their winter.
What happens after the winter solstice?
Do days get longer after winter solstice? Yes, they do as the season approaches equinox and then summer equinox. This is the flow for the winter solstice Southern Hemisphere; we first get to the winter solstice, then the equinox, and finally the summer solstice at the end of the year. During winter solstice 2019, we will have the shortest day of the year. However, after that, as we approach equinox in September, the days keep getting longer. Remember, during an equinox, the length of the day and night is the same. If you want to break the word “equinox” down like “solstice” above, then equinox is made up of two Latin words namely aequus (equal) and nox (night).
Winter solstice traditions SA
What can you do to celebrate the start of long nights? Although this happens every year, there are some traditions conducted during this day in several parts of the world. In as much as this may not be common in South Africa, traditionally, solstice celebrations involved:
- Giving gifts of imitation fruit to symbolize fertility
- Since it is the longest night, people would light special logs to help re-ignite the sun.
Today, you can
- Grab a drink and enjoy the perfect view of the sun setting
- Take pictures of the event and share with the rest of the world.
- Parties that involve dressing up in winter attires.
Now that you know what you can do to celebrate this day, you can apply this during Winter solstice 2020.
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For others, winter solstice 2019 is just the start of the countdown to Christmas. Regardless, be prepared for winter ahead and an extremely long night ahead. Happy winter solstice!