What is the first day of winter?

What is the first day of winter?first day of winter

The official first day of winter is December 21st (or on occasion December 22nd every 4th year) (similar to how the first day of summer is generally June 21st).  For calendar and universal season dating purposes December 21st of every year will be considered to be the first day of winter.  Both of these dates on the 21st of the month, 6 months apart are also known as the corresponding summer or winter solstice.  

Is it the same first day of winter for everyone?

It is important to remember that these dates are based on the position of the sun relative to your location, so the above dates will be true for anyone in the northern hemisphere, and reversed for anyone in the southern hemisphere.

Why that day?

December 21st, or the winter solstice is considered the “shortest” day of the year, and likewise summer solstice would be the “longest” day of the year. This length of day doesn’t actually refer to a change in the number of hours as that will always be 24 hours per day, no matter what time of year.  However, it does refer to the number of “daylight” hours, or hours between sunrise and sunset.  If you live in the northern hemisphere you probably notice that after June 21st the days start to get shorter, meaning the hours of sunlight gradually decrease until December 21st.  After December 21st, the daylight hours will slowly lengthen again until they peak on June 21st and repeat the cycle.

Why can it be different every 4th year?

Due to the number of days in the year changing with each leap year, which happens to be four years apart, those years will have the solstice days off by 1 and then returning to the usual 21st of the month for the following three years.

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1 Response

  1. Dr. Angela Gala (Angie) says:

    I love your blog post on the first day of winter. I think it is so funny that you asked these questions and then answered them with such a straight face. I also love that you included how the dates are based on the position of the sun relative to your location in the world. I think it is so interesting and funny that you’ve included so many different scenarios for this question.

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