Did you feel like yesterday just flew by and you didn't even get half of what you needed to get done? Don't worry! The whole southern hemisphere was in the same boat because yesterday was officially the shortest day of the year, known as the winter solstice. The good news (or bad news if it's a Monday) is that the days will be getting longer and the nights shorter, technically, it just means we are getting closer to summer.
Here are 6 facts you probably didn't know about the winter solstice:
1. The winter solstice happened on the 21st of June 2018 in the southern hemisphere at 12:07 South African or 4:28 p.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). The southern hemisphere was tilted at exactly 23,4 degrees and was facing away from the sun while the northern hemisphere was tilted towards the sun.
2. While we were freezing our butts off, the northern hemisphere was basking in the warmth of the sun, celebrating their summer solstice. But in December, the grass will be greener on the southern side as the 21st of December marks the summer solstice for the southern hemisphere and the winter solstice for the northern hemisphere.
3. Solstices happen because of the way the earth tilts. Most people think that that summer and winter happen because the earth is closer in summer and further in winter which isn't true because the earth travels around the sun on a circular orbit, winter and summer occur because the way that the earth tilts varies the amount of sun the earth is exposed to.
4. People all over the world celebrate both the winter and summer solstice. In England, people try to stand in just the right place inside the Stonehenge monument on the day of the northern summer solstice, to see the sunrise through the entrance towards a stone outside the circle – known as the Heel Stone – and see the sun rise above the Heel Stone. In the southern hemisphere, Australia’s Antarctic team takes part in a tradition that began with early explorers, such as Sir Douglas Mawson, where they dive into the -22 degrees, icy ocean (the winter solstice clearly froze any sense of logic or will to be warm).
5. Some old traditions believed that the winter solstice, marking the longest night of the year, was when dark spirits walk the Earth. The Iranian festival called Yalda is celebrated on the longest night of the year. In pre-Islamic times, the winter solstice marked the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his victory over darkness. Zoroastrian belief dictates evil spirits wander the earth and the forces of the destructive spirit, Ahriman, are the most dangerous on the longest night. People are, therefore, encouraged to stay up the whole night with friends and family, eating, talking, and sharing poetry and stories, so that they avoid any encounter with dark spirits. Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night are also present in Celtic and Germanic folklore. In a more dramatic fashion, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar used by the ancient Mayans stated that the world was going to end (again) on the winter solstice in 2012.
6. The word "solstice" comes from the Latin word solstitium, which translates to 'the Sun stands still'. This is because, on the day of the solstice, the Sun reaches its most southern position as we see from the Earth. At this point, it looks like the sun stands still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction. People also call it the day the Sun turns around.
Personally, we think the winter solstice should be deemed a southern hemisphere holiday in which everyone gets to stay home in bed!