When Is the Shortest Day of the Year?

Mia Chow · Nov 24, 2023 · Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Well, as one of our witty readers pointed out, technically, EVERY DAY is the same length (caps by the reader). What we aim to cover in this article is which day of the year has the least amount of sunlight.

The shortest day of the year, also known as the winter solstice, occurs on December 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere. This is when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun, resulting in the least amount of daylight and the longest night.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the shortest day occurs on June 20th or 21st, when the South Pole is tilted farthest from the Sun.

The exact date can vary slightly from year to year due to the way the calendar aligns with the Earth's orbit around the Sun.

Shortest Day of The Year for the Next 10 Years

Year Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere
2023 December 21, 2023 June 21, 2023
2024 December 22, 2024 June 20, 2024
2025 December 21, 2025 June 21, 2025
2026 December 21, 2026 June 21, 2026
2027 December 21, 2027 June 21, 2027
2028 December 22, 2028 June 20, 2028
2029 December 21, 2029 June 21, 2029
2030 December 21, 2030 June 21, 2030
2031 December 21, 2031 June 21, 2031
2032 December 22, 2032 June 20, 2032
2033 December 21, 2033 June 21, 2033

The amount of daylight on the winter solstice varies depending on your latitude. The further from the equator you are, the shorter the day. At the poles, it's a time of perpetual twilight or darkness.

Historical Importance

The cultural and historical importance of the winter solstice is vast and varied, spanning different civilizations and eras.

Stonehenge, England

Perhaps the most famous solstice-related structure, Stonehenge aligns with the sunset on the winter solstice. It's believed to have been used for ancient ceremonies, possibly to mark the changing seasons.

Sunset in Stonehenge during the winter solstice

Newgrange, Ireland

This prehistoric monument is aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice. Light enters a narrow passage and illuminates the inner chamber, a phenomenon that still attracts visitors today.

Saturnalia in Ancient Rome

This was a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the intent of combatting the darkness. It involved feasting, goodwill, generosity to the poor, and the exchanging of gifts.

Cultural Relevance

Many ancient and modern cultures have attached significant meaning to this astronomical event, leading to a variety of customs, festivals, and traditions. Here are some key aspects:

Rebirth Themes

Many cultures view the solstice as a time of death and rebirth. This theme is prevalent in various mythologies, where the sun is often depicted as a deity dying and being reborn.


The choice of December 25th for celebrating Christmas may have been influenced by the Roman Saturnalia festival and the winter solstice, as it symbolizes the birth of Jesus Christ, which aligns with themes of rebirth and renewal.

Yule in Scandinavia

Originating as a pagan festival, Yule was a celebration of the rebirth of the sun. Traditions included burning a Yule log, feasting, and merrymaking. Many Yule traditions were absorbed into Christmas celebrations.

Dongzhi Festival in China

This festival marks the arrival of winter and is a time for family reunions and special meals. It's a celebration of the return of longer daylight hours and an increase in positive energy.

Winter Solstice from Space

From a space-based perspective, the solstice is the moment when the Earth's axial tilt is at its maximum angle away from the Sun. This means that, seen from above the North Pole, the Earth would appear to be tilted at its greatest angle, with the Arctic Circle in complete darkness and the Antarctic Circle in full sunlight.

Winter solstice diagraphm with North Pole tilted farthest away from the Sun

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