(Photo: A view of Mount Baker in Washington State on Wednesday from the SkyTrain in Burnaby.)


AH, I just can’t wait for December 21!

That’s the shortest day of the year – and the longest night. But after that the days will only get longer and the nights shorter.

On December 21 the sun will shine directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, south of the equator. While the earth rotates about the sun, it also spins on its axis, which is tilted some 23.5 degrees towards the plane of its rotation. Because of this tilt, the Northern Hemisphere, where we are based, receives less sunlight, creating winter.

On the winter solstice, the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. That is the origin of the word “solstice” – Latin “solstitium”: a standing still of the sun (“sol”).

As the National Geographic reports, people have celebrated the day around the world and throughout history. In fact, “ancient Rome had a major festival in honor of Saturn, their god of farming, on the winter solstice. The solstice occurred around December 25 on the Roman calendar. About 1,600 years ago, Pope Julius I of the Catholic Church decided that Christmas should be celebrated on December 25, so that a Christian holiday would replace the ancient Roman one.”