Solstice and Equinox Explained
Anyone else getting sick and tired of these short days? I was eating lunch yesterday and the sun was setting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sunset, but come on, not while I’m eating my turkey club.
Good news is the end is near. Not like “The End”, I just mean the days are about to get longer. Saturday, December 21st marks the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year. Definitely a cause for celebration in my book.
Ancient humans seem to agree with me. There’s evidence that we have been celebrating the solstice for over 10,000 years. Ancient structures around the world like Stonehenge, Tulum, and the Temple of Karnak are all built to align with the path of the sun during the solstice.
It’s pretty amazing that all of these ancient cultures had the knowledge and awareness to construct structures that perfectly aligned with the sun’s path throughout the year. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast.
So, let’s get back in touch with our inner ancestors.
Why do we even have a solstice? Is it the same as an equinox? Do people still celebrate today?
Take a look at the picture below. These things are way easier to explain with pictures. Earth orbits the sun on a nice tilted axis. This is literally the “reason for the season”. If the Earth wasn’t tilted, the weather would be the same year round, which would be catastrophic for humanity, but that’s another story.
The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, happens when the Earth’s North Pole is tilted furthest from the Sun. The summer solstice, the longest day of the year, happens when, you guessed it, the Earth’s North Pole is tilted closest to the Sun.
In between, there are two times when the tilt of the Earth is zero, meaning that the tilt is neither away from the Sun nor toward the Sun; the vernal and autumnal equinox. So, the equinox is kind of like the opposite of the solstice.
So, let’s party right? Why don’t we celebrate these days like we used to?
Truth is, in a lot of cultures around the world, the solstice is still celebrated in a big way.
DongZhi, or the Winter Solstice Festival, is one of the most important Chinese and East Asian festivals of the year and is celebrated by the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans.
Yalda night is a massive Iranian solstice festival, celebrated with food and drink, stories, songs, and poetry. We could go on, but the point is that many people around the world still celebrate the solstice in a big way.
Well, don’t threaten me with a good time. I can’t think of too many things that are more deserving of a celebration. You can find me partying it up with my family this solstice. In a few weeks, I’ll even be able to eat my turkey club in broad daylight. Now that is a win.