Do you know you summer from your winter solstice?

Did you hear that Thursday, 20 June was the winter solstice in South Africa, but where too afraid to ask what that meant?

If so, keep on reading!

A solstice is the time when the sun reaches its most northerly or southerly excursion relative to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere.

Two solstices occur annually, around June 20-22 and December 20-22.

Winter solstice explained in simple English

In many countries, the seasons of the year are defined by reference to the solstices and the equinoxes.

The term solstice can also be used in a broader sense, as the day when this occurs.

The day of a solstice in either hemisphere has either the most sunlight of the year (summer solstice) or the least sunlight of the year (winter solstice) for any place other than the equator.

In simple English, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year (June in the southern hemisphere, December in the northern hemisphere)

Conversely, the summer solstice is the day with the longest period of daylight and the shortest night of the year (December in the southern hemisphere, June in the northern hemisphere).

Alternative terms, with no ambiguity as to which hemisphere is the context, are “June solstice” and “December solstice”, referring to the months in which they take place every year.

The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”), because at the solstices, the sun’s declination appears to “stand still”; that is, the seasonal movement of the sun’s daily path (as seen from Earth) pauses at a northern or southern limit before reversing direction.


Year June Time December Time
2024 20 20:51 21 09:20
2025 21 02:42 21 15:03
2026 21 08:25 21 20:50
2027 21 14:11 22 02:43
2028 20 20:02 21 08:20
2029 21 01:48 21 14:14


For an observer at the North Pole, the sun reaches the highest position in the sky once a year in June.

The day this occurs is called the June solstice day.

Similarly, for an observer at the South Pole, the sun reaches the highest position on the December solstice day.

When it is the summer solstice at one Pole, it is the winter solstice at the other.

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