What is the Winter Solstice?

The winter solstice — Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022 at 4:48 p.m. EST — is the astronomical moment when the sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn and we have our shortest day and longest night of the year. Regardless of what the weather is doing outside your window, the solstice marks the official start of winter. The term “solstice” comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) because, during the solstice, the angle between the sun’s rays and the plane of the earth’s equator appears to stand still. So what does that mean? Upon the winter solstice, the sun appears at its lowest in the sky, and its noontime elevation seems to stay the same for several days before and after this day. The sun’s gradual decrease in the sky reverses upon the winter solstice, lengthening the hours of daylight. On Wednesday, June 21, 2023 at 10:57 a.m. EST, the whole process will reverse when we celebrate the summer solstice.