Discovering our fascination with the stars

The Secrets Behind The Solstice

We are only a few days from seeing one of the most special archaeological-astronomic phenomenons of the year: the Winter Solstice.

For the prehispanic cultures the winter solstice was one of the most important events because of many reasons. The Mayans considered the cosmos was created and controlled by supernatural phenomenon. They were great observers of the sky and thanks to it they created a very precise calendar and they also built their cities and temples according to the movement of the sun and the stars.

Beyond The Winter Solstice 2014
Photo: Stéphane Guisard

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Here we share with you 7 interesting facts to understand the winter solstice:

1.-During the December solstice Earth is the Northern Hemisphere is leaning most away from the sun.

2.-If you live in the Northern Hemisphere you will be able to enjoy late dawns and early sunsets, also, did you know that your noontime shadow will be your longest of the year

But if you live on the Southern Hempishere you will live exactly the opposite: dawn comes early and dusk comes late.

Beyond The Winter Solstice 2014
Photo: Paulbroad

3.-During December 21st we will have the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere and the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

4.-The winter solstice is the moment when the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun.

5.-The December solstice dates vary, and it is more often that they happen in December 21st or 22nd than on December 20nd and 23rd. The last December 23rd solstice was in 1903 and will happen again until 2303, while the next December 2oth solstice will happen in 2080.

6.-Many people gather together to witness the winter solstice, in Mexico many tourists visit archaelogical sites. One of the most famous is Chichén Itzá, people will see the sun rising at dawn and lift upward to the edge of the pyramid. If they are facing the western side of the Kukulkán castle they will see the rising sun rolling up the pyramid’s edge before lifting off to the sky.

Picture by CNN

7.-For years people thought that the Mayas predicted that during the winter solstice of 2012 the world was ending. But what really happened was that the the Mayan Calendar completed a great cycle of the long count (know as the 13th baktun), this represented the opportunity to start anew.

Now that you have learned a little more about the Winter Solstice, get ready to celebrate it, and if you are planning to visit Riviera Maya during December, remember to visit Chichen Itza and learn about the great ancient culture of the Mayans.