Winter Solstice 2011: The Shortest Day of the Year Marks the Start of Winter

Today is a day that can be called many things. It’s the shortest day of the year. It marks the start of Winter. The Winter Solstice will occur today. If you believe in the apocalypse, today starts the one-year long countdown to the end of the world. And, it’s a Wednesday.

The winter solstice occurs Thursday morning at 5:30 am GMT, which correlates to 9:30 p.m. PST tonight. The earth, from the perspective of the North Pole, will be tilting as far away from the sun as it will all year tonight. After the winter solstice the earth will begin its gradual tilt until it is facing toward the sun, at an angle of about 23.5 degrees, during the Summer solstice in June.

ABC reports that Chicago and other Midwest cities can expect 9.1 hours of daylight tomorrow. Cities north of the arctic circle, like Murmansk, Russia, will experience 24-hours of darkness.

Humans have been celebrating the Winter Solstice for thousands of years. Today, several groups still mark the occasions. The LA Times reports that Winter Solstice celebrations have seen a resurgence in recent years and that hundreds of people are gathering at ancient locations like Stonehenge to worship the sun.

Selena Fox, a Wiccan priestess, said that the occasion is “widely celebrated today by Wiccans, druids, heathens and other pagans; by indigenous peoples practicing traditional ways in Africa, Asia, Polynesia, Australia, Europe and the Americas; by environmentalists and astronomers; by secular humanists and Freethinkers; by eco-Christians and those of other religions and philosophies.”

Will you be celebrating the Winter Solstice?