Today's Google Doodle is an Ode to the Winter Solstice

120 people won tickets to witness this morning's event from Newgrange

In the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the world's population lives, the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night.

What is the winter solstice, and why do we have it?

The Earth rotates the Sun on a tilt - at an angle of 23.5 degrees.

While the shortest day can be kind of a bummer, it has a little silver lining: It means that from here, sunlight will stick around longer and longer. This year, that moment will occur at 16:28 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). So today, on the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, the account starts up again.

Winter solstice has been celebrated for hundreds of years in Britain, pre-dating Christianity. Eastern Time on Thursday, Dec. 21. Boston's sunlight period ends a bit earlier, at 4:15 p.m., with nine hours and four minutes of daylight.

The Southern Hemisphere refers to this event as the December Solstice because seasonally it signals the beginning of their summer. The Feast of Juul was another pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at winter solstice.

Today's Winter Solstice Is the Shortest Day of the Year. Here's When the Sun Sets Near You
Winter solstice: Why is today the shortest day of the year and how is it celebrated?

The winter solstice may be the shortest day of the year, but that doesn't mean you'll have an early sunset.

Why isn't the winter solstice on the same day each year?

And in fact, the tradition of the Christmas tree may have its roots in such pre-Christian traditions associated with the solstice. "The extra 30 seconds of a solar day makes true solar noon - and sunrise and sunset - about 30 seconds later each day".

For thousands of years, people have taken part in rituals to mark the occasion.

The very orientation of the prehistoric Stonehenge standing stones in the United Kingdom is along a solstice axis, with a sightline pointing to the December solstice sunset.

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