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Winter solstice will fall on December 21 in 2016, ushering in winter for the Northern Hemisphere.  The term “solstice” is derived from the Latin words sol meaning sun and sistere meaning to stand still.   A solstice is an astronomical event during which the sun is either in its northernmost or southernmost position. 

Two solstices occur each year.  In the Northern Hemisphere, winter solstice falls on December 21 or 22 when the sun reaches its lowest position over the Tropic of Cancer.  This marks the first official day of winter and is the shortest day and longest night of the year.  Summer solstice falls on June 20, 21, or 22 when the sun reaches its highest position over the Tropic of Cancer.  Summer Solstice is the first day of summer as well as the longest day and shortest night of the year. 

Mankind's observance of the winter solstice predates Christmas celebrations by thousands of years, and many of the earlier traditions have been incorporated into modern Christmas celebrations. To learn more, check out The Winter Solstice by John Matthews.