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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Winter Solstice

Next month those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere will experience the Winter Solstice, i.e. the shortest day of the year. On this day, the North Pole will be at its maximum tilt away from the sun. Since before written history, the Winter Solstice (also called Midwinter) has been observed with rituals and celebrations, as it marks the beginning of lengthening daylight.

In The Legacy, Anna is a Danish immigrant. She and the other Danes refer to Christmas as Jul. The word derives from an ancient twelve-day Midwinter holiday celebrated by pagan Scandinavian peoples. Jul is currently used to denote Christmas in Nordic countries. Many of today’s Christmas traditions, including Christmas trees and wreaths, originated in this pagan holiday.   

Although the Winter Solstice is also referred to as Midwinter, many countries including the United States consider it the First Day of Winter. The actual date is usually December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the Winter solstice occurs in June.) 

However, the December Solstice date and time will vary, depending on geographical location in the Northern Hemisphere. This year’s December Solstice will occur on Sunday, December 22, 2019 at 04:19 UCT (Universal Coordinated Time). But in Omaha, Nebraska USA, where I live, the official local time for the Solstice will be Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 10:19 PM Central Standard Time.
The length of daylight on the shortest day of the year also varies by geographical location, ranging from least at the North Pole to most at the Equator.

For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, the opposite of the Winter Solstice is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. This occurs in June, and in the USA it is the first day of summer. The difference in the number of hours of daylight between the shortest and longest days of the year is similarly related to geographical latitude.

My second book, tentatively titled The Claim and scheduled for release late spring or summer of 2020, is mostly set in the Yukon Territory at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush. Consequently, the photoperiod (length of daylight) at different times of the year is a major consideration. These wonderful maps by Brian Brettschneider were of great assistance. His blog is filled with fascinating North American maps and data, very helpful in researching unfamiliar geographical areas.

As the December Solstice approaches, consider a small celebration of the beginning of lengthening daylight in nature’s march toward summer. (I’ll probably indulge in my favorite chocolate.)

Ann Markim

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  1. Really interesting, Ann! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I enjoyed looking at these maps. Ann. It was like watching the Weather Channel. I don't like winter, but I do like Winter Solstice because it's a turning point that says, "Things are gettin' better."

    I like that your book has a Scandinavian immigrant. So many of our traditions are from pagan traditions. I didn't know Christmas trees originated in Scandinavia; I always thought they were of German origin.

    I wish you great success with your new book, THE LEGACY.

    1. There was a lot of moving boundaries between Germany and Denmark. The current one didn't come into being until after World War I. German 'occupation' of South Jutland motivated my ancestors to immigrate to the U.S. So it might depend on whose history you read:)