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The winter solstice, also known as midwinter, is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. It occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere.
See the fact file below for more information on the winter solstice or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Winter Solstice worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
HISTORY OF WINTER SOLSTICE
- Dating back to neolithic times (about 12,000 years ago), the solstice may have signified a special moment of the annual cycle.
- Ancient Egyptians, Celts, and other groups celebrated the winter solstice and many different traditions.
- The winter solstice occurs on December 21st of each year.
- Historically, periods throughout the year marked timings for things like crop cultivation, animal mating cycles, and migration.
- Since starvation was common during the first few months of winter, the solstice became crucial.
- People needed to harvest and stock up on food in order to survive the “famine months”, as they were called, which referred to the months between January and April in the northern hemisphere, and July to October in the southern hemisphere.
- Many cattle and other farm animals were slaughtered before this time so they wouldn’t need to be fed and maintained during the winter, and so that people could rely on a stockpile of fresh meat to sustain them.
- Wine and beer were fermented and ready for drinking by this time to last groups until the spring.
- At sunrise on the winter solstice, the sun can be seen directly between the main stones at Stonehenge in England.
- The winter solstice is the day of the year with the shortest period of daylight, and is also the longest night of the year.
- Astronomically, it occurs when one of the Earth’s poles is tilted at its maximum tilt away from the sun, happening twice a year, once in each hemisphere.
- Many people associate the winter solstice with the first day of winter, and the beginning of the Christmas season.
- The sun is at its lowest height in the sky on the winter solstice.
CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF WINTER SOLSTICE
- In Iranian culture, the festival of Yalda is celebrated on the solstice.
- During the solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year, family and friends get together to eat, drink, and recite poetry until the early hours or the morning.
- Foods typically eaten during Yalda include fruit and nuts, especially watermelon and pomegranates, as the color red symbolizes the colors of the coming dawn and the “glow of life”.
- Poems are usually from Divan-e Hafez.
- The Yule, or Yuletide, is a festival that is observed by various Northern European groups and Neopagans in Nordic countries and around the world.
- In more recent times, Yule is celebrated with gatherings that often involve a meal and gift giving.
- In many forms of Wicca (a contemporary Pagan religious movement), Yule is celebrated as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god. In their belief, he is the newborn solstice sun.
- In East Asia, the winter solstice is celebrated as one of the 24 Solar Terms (referred to as “Dong Zhi” in Chinese).
- The 24 Solar Terms represent the 24 points of the traditional East Asian lunisolar calendar that matches a particular astronomical event. It may also signify a natural phenomenon that occurs on one of the 24 days.
- In the Japanese culture, there is a custom to soak oneself in a hot bath so as to not catch a cold in the coming winter months. These baths are called yuzu hot baths, and include citrus fruit in them.
FACTS ABOUT THE WINTER SOLSTICE
- The word “solstice” comes from the two Latin words “sol”, meaning “sun”, and “sistere” meaning “to stand still”.
- The winter solstice can be a beautiful reminder that we are all a part of something larger, and that life is always changing and renewing.
- Sharing food is of particular importance to the many groups who celebrate the solstice, as it is a symbol of faith in the return of the sun and the harvest in the coming year.
- In ancient cultures, the celebration of the winter solstice took place over several days, not just one.
- The Ancient Roman “Saturnalia festival” sometimes went on for a week.
- Many who celebrate the winter solstice take part in evening rituals that include meditating, lighting candles, singing, and sharing food with loved ones and friends. Some also choose to burn a log as a Yule log to start next year’s fire (metaphorically).
- Some people choose to make donations of food, clothing, or money on the winter solstice, as well as small gestures of kindness, like setting up bird feeders or cleaning out resting places for animals.
- Direct observation of the solstice isn’t really possible, as the sun moves too slowly to be tracked by the naked eye.
Winter Solstice Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about winter solstice across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Winter Solstice worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the winter solstice, also known as midwinter, which is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. It occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Solstice Acrostic
- Celebrations of the Solstice
- The 24 Solar Terms
- How Much Sun?
- Winter Solstice Wordsearch
- A Wintery Welcome
- Winter vs Summer
- Winter Solstice Crossword
- Scientifically Speaking…
- Unscrambling Activity
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Link will appear as Winter Solstice Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, June 8, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.