On December 21, The annual winter solstice began which brings with it ‘the shortest day of the year’ is once again around the corner. Also known as ‘Hiemal Solstice’ or ‘Hibernal Solstice’, Winter Solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year and is known as the “first day of winter” in the Northern Hemisphere.

‘Solstice’ is a Latin word that means ‘stalled sun’. A Solstice occurs twice in a year — Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice. While Summer Solstice is the longest day on the Earth, Winter Solstice is the longest night on the planet.It is believed that the solstice, derived from the Latin sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”).

The Dōngzhì Festival (literally, the Winter Solstice Festival) is one of the most important East Asian festivals, celebrated on this day by the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and the Vietnamese during what they call the Dongzhi solar term (winter solstice).

Interestingly, Though Winter Solstice is known as the ‘first day of winter’, it also means the “return of more sunlight”.As per the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the ‘Great Conjunction’ took place on Monday nearly after 400 years. It says that people will be able to watch without special types of equipment after the sunset.

The latest Google Doodle celebrates Winter Solstice and the Great Conjunction with an animated graphic on December 21. Winter solstice usually takes place between December 19 and December 23 in the northern hemisphere. Today’s animated Doodle “celebrates the Northern Hemisphere’s first day of winter as well as this rare double planet sighting- or “Great Conjunction”- which can be viewed from anywhere around the globe!”

According to NASA, this event will take place after approximately 400 years since the planets were this close to each other in the sky and almost 800 years after Jupiter and Saturn aligned in the night.

The December 21 Winter Solstice can be sighted in India at 03:32 pm, according to timeanddate.com. Skywatchers in North America, Central America, Europe, Asia, and northern Africa can also view this winter solstice depending on the weather conditions.

The conjunction is being called Christmas Star because though the planets appear to be apart from one another, they will appear as one big star like the Star of Bethlehem which appeared in the eastern sky on the birth of Jesus Christ.

In India, the conjunction can be watched between 06:30 pm-07:30 pm. Delhi’s Nehru Planetarium has opened registrations for viewing the celestial phenomenon. To avoid crowding, the planetarium has started skywatching from December 20 and this will go on till December 22.

As Christmas is approaching, here are some Christmas wish to share with your friends and family:

“May this season find you among those you love, sharing in the twin glories of generosity and gratitude.”

“Christmas is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.”

“We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas. We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.”

“Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind.”

“May the true spirit of Christmas shine in your heart and light your path.”

“Wishing you a season that’s merry and bright with the light of God’s love.”

“Christmas gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the important things around us.”

“Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard, or too sad when you’ve got a Christmas tree in the living room.”

Wishing you peace, joy, and unconditional love at Christmas and always.

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