Google Doodle Celebrates the 2017 Winter Solstice Today

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While it's winter for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, people in the Southern Hemisphere experience it as their summer solstice with the longest stretch of daylight. From that point on, periods of daylight get longer. It's a yearly astronomical turning point that humans have celebrated for millennia (just think Stonehenge or the ancient Maya).

"We're actually closer to the sun this time of year (also a surprise to many people) and moving faster in our orbit, so the Earth has to turn a little extra to face the sun each day compared to other times of year", Schneider says.

Here is the weather forecast for White Plains for December 20, 2017. The sun rises at about the same time in both places on Thursday - 7:16 a.m. and 7:17 a.m., respectively - but it sets almost an hour later in St. Augustine - 4:31 p.m. vs. 5:31 p.m. The Feast of Juul was another pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at winter solstice.

Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, December 25th, when we decorate our homes and communities with lights and stars to welcome the birth of the "true light of the world". Not until the Northern Hemisphere sees a net gain in solar energy (more heat coming in than going out) do average temperatures begin their ascent.

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December 21 marks our winter solstice, but it's the summer solstice if you head beneath the equator.

For thousands of years, people have taken part in rituals to mark the occasion. And one of the most well-known winter solstice celebration is Yule, the pagan tradition of welcoming the sunrise with gratitude.

The very orientation of the prehistoric Stonehenge standing stones in the United Kingdom is along a solstice axis, with a sightline pointing to the December solstice sunset.