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December 21, 2014 / Leslie

The Darkest Day of the Year

Only 89 more days until spring.

When I say ‘dark’, I mean that in a meteorological sense.

Astronomical winter begins at 5:03 p.m. CST in North America. Here in Chicago, we will have only 9½ hours of daylight today. And the way this month has been going, no sunshine. We have received only 19% of possible sunshine this month making it extra gloomy already. And today brings more rain. I suppose that’s better than snow; at least I don’t have to shovel rain.

The Winter Landscape

Cantigny Golf

Yesterday I took part in the Christmas Bird Count, an annual Audubon event. The data we collect allows researchers to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action. In the morning we walked Cantigny Park and in the afternoon we walked the golf course. We counted about 30 species of birds, which isn’t too bad for this time of the year.

Cantigny Golf

The lack of snowfall, still green grass, and mild temperatures combined to make the golf course look much less desolate than in some of the previous years. Last year we went out in the midst of a blizzard and freezing cold.

Solstice facts

  • The solstice occurs because the earth’s axis is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees.
  • The word solstice comes from ancient Latin. Sol meaning “sun” and sistere, “to stand still.” For several days before and after the solstice the sun appears to stand still in the sky and it’s noon time elevation does not change.
  • Some say early Christmas celebrations have their roots in the Feast of Saturnalia, a winter solstice celebration to the Roman god Saturn. When Christianity was introduced to the Roman Empire, the church allowed the feast to continue but dedicated it to the birth of Christ.
  • solstice-december

  • The custom of giving presents comes from the Roman feast of Saturnalia.
  • Stonehenge is aligned with solstice. The timber circle is orientated towards the rising sun on the midwinter solstice.


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Leave a Comment
  1. BermudaOnion / Dec 21 2014 2:48 pm

    I’m ready for the days to start getting longer again – I really hate when it gets dark so early.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nise' (Under the Boardwalk) / Dec 21 2014 10:06 pm

    Michigan did not get much sunshine either. We are expecting a little snow for a white Christmas. Merry Christmas!


  3. Sue / Dec 22 2014 11:26 pm

    Cool facts! I’m ready for spring…now!


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