Although the snow has been with us for a while here in Vermont, today is the first official day of winter. The winter soltice. The shortest day of the year up here in the frozen north and from here on in, we are a direct path to summer. The days start to get longer again and the sun stronger. In the southern hemisphere, this is the longest day of the year and they are on track to shorter days. Today there will be 8 hours and 56 minutes of daylight here in our neck of the woods.

The word “solstice” means “standing still sun”. It is traditionally marked as the day that celebrates the return of the sun. The winter solstice is also commonly referred to as Yule.  Winter solstice celebrations center around traditions to ensure that the sun returns and gets stronger. In many cultures it is celebrated with symbols of light and warmth. One of the more interesting that I learned about is in Ireland, there is a megalithic passage tomb in Newgrange. The passage was built around 3200 B.C. has a passage 19 meters long that leads to the center of the structure. It was built in such a manner that the center and passages are illuminated for 17 minutes each year on the day of the winter solstice due to the position of the sun in the sky.

Photo: newsfile.ie

Admission into the passage for this once-a-year event is held by lottery. Each year 50 names are drawn and two tickets are given to each winner.

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