Winter » Zima| 81 I N CE L E BR AT I ON OF T HE WI NT E R SOLST I CE Night falls on Europe For those who live north of the equator, the winter solstice marks the day of the year with the fewest hours of daylight, which is why we refer to it as the longest night or the shortest and darkest day. This year we await the start of winter on 21st December In the midst of the pre-holiday fever, many are vaguely conscious that the winter solstice is approaching. However, whether you’re a lover of winter or just want it to pass as quickly as possible, there are some things that should be mentioned, or even celebrated, with regard to the shortest day of the year. 1. The date of the arrival of winter varies from year to year and can fall on any day between 20th and 23rd December, though the most common dates are the 21st or 22nd. The next solstice to occur on 20th December will only happen in 2080, while the next shortest day of the year to fall on 23rd December won’t happen until 2303. Winter will this year start on 21st December. 2. As the majority of us are painfully aware, daylight hours reduce continuously as the winter solstice approaches, only to slowly begin extending afterwards. On that day New York will have nine hours and 15 minutes of daylight, Helsinki will enjoy five hours and 49minutes, while some places in Alaska won’t see the sunrise at all until the end of January. 3. This was the most important event of the year for ancient pagans and druids – they considered it even more significant than the summer solstice, because it marked the return of the Sun. And even today people gather en masse at Stonehenge in the UK to celebrate the first sunrise after the winter solstice. However, the magic actually happens at sunset: given that the stones are perfectly aligned with the path of the sun so that you can see the last rays of the winter solstice disappearing beyond the horizon through the very centre of the stone circle. 4. In Ancient Rome, the Saturnalia festival began on 17th December and lasted for seven days. As the name suggests, it was celebrated in honour of Saturn, the father of the gods, who also gave his name to the sixth planet of our solar system. People would offer sacrifices in temples and give gifts to each other. Even slaves received free time to celebrate. Za pagane i druide ovo je bio najvažniji događaj u godini This was the most important event of the year for ancient pagans and druids Reč solsticij potiče od latinskog sol , što znači „sunce“ i sistere, što znači „mirovati“ / The word solstice comes from the Latin words sol, meaning “sun”, and sistere, meaning “to stand still”