The Changing of the Seasons

Many people love winter—the snow, the holidays, the opportunity to curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book—but there’s a lot more to winter than weather and fun parties.

For instance, did you know that there are areas of Alaska, Canada, Finland, Norway and Iceland there are summer days where the sun doesn’t set at all? This natural phenomenon (known as polar day), has an opposite—polar night.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Polar night is characterized by darkness that lasts for more than 24 hours. The sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, but it lingers just below, creating a beautiful blue light during the day—not the pitch blackness many people imagine when they think of polar night.

As beautiful as the blue light is, I’m thankful that I live close enough to the equator that I still experience separate night and day (but still far enough from the equator that snow is a distinct winter possibility!). Even though many people have never experienced polar night, most of us are familiar with the Winter Solstice—the official beginning of winter.

As the winter solstice approaches in the Northern Hemisphere (our friends in South America, Southern Africa, and Australia will have to wait six months for theirs!), I wanted to take the time to highlight some fascinating facts about this significant day.

How does it work?

The winter solstice is the official start of winter. It may feel like winter starts as soon as the temperatures drop below 40 degrees or when malls start playing Christmas carols non-stop, but believe it or not, most of December is actually autumn (and most of March is winter!)

The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year and the shortest day. It was all downhill, so to speak, leading up to the solstice, and after the solstice the days become longer and the nights become shorter. This is because at noon on the solstice, the sun is at its lowest point in the horizon all year.

Many cultures celebrate the winter solstice using light to symbolically represent the gradually lengthening days.

Winter solstice crafts

You can create winter solstice fun in your classroom with these fun, wintery crafts.

Make a winter solstice lantern to celebrate the return of longer days!

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Craft birdseed cakes for the birds in your neighborhood to munch on during the long winter months.

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Do you have any winter solstice traditions? How do you plan on celebrating the solstice this year? Leave us a comment, write on our Facebook page, or sent us a tweet @freefieldtrips.

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