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Here comes the cold and dark: The winter solstice, the day of the year with the least amount of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere, occurs early Wednesday morning.
The solstice happens at the same instant everywhere on Earth. In the U.S., it happened at 5:44 a.m. EST Wednesday (or 4:44 a.m. CT, 3:44 a.m. MT and 2:44 a.m. PT).
After the solstice, the amount of daylight slowly starts to get longer again each day.
The winter solstice is the exact moment that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted the farthest it ever gets from the sun. During the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, the land north of the equator is tilted away from the sun. This lowers the amount of the sun’s warming energy that reaches Earth, hence, winter!
It’s the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, where Dec. 21 marks the beginning of astronomical summer.
On the winter solstice, all places south of the equator have more than 12 hours of daylight, while all locations north of the equator have less than 12 hours of daylight, AccuWeather said.
One of the most famous solstice celebrations occurs at the ancient Stonehenge ruins in Wiltshire, England, where druids, pagans and other revelers gather each year to celebrate the event.