The Winter Solstice
This is an introductory lesson about the winter solstice and why it is celebrated. Mysterious ancient structures are introduced.
• to explain and discuss why the seasons bring different temperatures;
to explain and discuss the relation between holiday symbols today and the ancient myths from which they derive;
to familiarize the students with some significant ancient structures and their locations.
While the earth spins, like a top, it is also going through space on a tilt which is always in the same direction. The earth is always tilted towards the North Star on a 23.5? angle in relation to its circular track around the sun. Because of this tilt, the sun?s rays on the earth are denser in one position and less dense in another. It used to be thought that the earth moved closer or further away from the sun as the seasons changed, but now we know it is the tilt and position that give us winter and summer.
The term solstice is given to the two times when the angle of the earth, and its position in relationship to the sun, cause the sun to be either at the furthest point, or the shortest point from the equator.
In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs on December 21st. This is the longest night of the year after which the nights steadily give way to longer and longer days. The summer solstice is June 21st, the shortest night of the year. After June 21st, the days grow shorter and the nights longer.