Winter solstice 2022: When is the shortest day of the year?

As we leave the sunshine behind, here's when to expect the shortest day of the year

A field covered in snow with people playing in it
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The darker evenings have arrived and many are now wondering when is the shortest day of the year? Here's everything you need to know...

Once autumn arrives (opens in new tab) and the clocks have gone back (opens in new tab), it's time to count down to Halloween, Christmas, and the shortest day of the year - all while hoping that it will snow in the UK (opens in new tab) so we can look forward to a white Christmas (opens in new tab) and get out sledging, making snow angels, and all the other fun, wintery activities.

And while the lack of daylight in the winter is a price we have to pay for the festivities, the shortest day of the year - also known as winter solstice - can be a great opportunity to have some fun. Keep reading to find out when is winter solstice in 2022...

When is the shortest day of the year 2022?

The shortest day of the year in 2022 will be on Wednesday 21 December. This is the date when the sun is lowest in the sky and the Earth's North Pole is pointing its furthest away from the sun. 

Also known as winter solstice, the shortest day of the year always occurs in December, and in the northern hemisphere the date marks the 24-hour period with the fewest daylight hours of the year. This is why it is known as the shortest day and longest night. The winter solstice is the exact opposite of the summer solstice (opens in new tab), which is the day with the most daylight and the shortest night of the year.

Sunset over a frosty field

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The winter solstice marks the official beginning of astronomical winter (as opposed to meteorological winter, which always starts on December 1), and occurs once a year in each hemisphere: once in the Northern Hemisphere (in December) and once in the Southern Hemisphere (in June). When one hemisphere is experiencing winter solstice, the other is simultaneously experiencing summer solstice.

Is the winter solstice always on the same date?

21 December is the most common date for winter solstice to occur, but it does sometimes change. The solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22 or 23.

However, December 20 or 23 solstices are rare - the last December 23 solstice was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303. Next year, the shortest day will fall on 22 December 2023. 

Though the date is often the same, the exact time of the solstice varies each year. But it happens at the same moment everywhere on Earth, though in the Southern Hemisphere it will be their summer solstice, meaning it is the longest day of the year.

How long is the shortest day of the year?

The shortest day of the year lasts 7 hours 49 minutes and 42 seconds. The length of day during this time is 8 hours, 48 minutes and 38 seconds shorter than the summer solstice. The actual moment of the solstice in 2022 will occur around 9.48pm in the UK.

This is the exact moment when the northern hemisphere is tilted the furthest away from the sun that it can be - but most people celebrate winter solstice as an entire day, and it has been recognised by holidays and festivals in different cultures across the world.

Do the days get longer after the winter solstice?

If you're not a fan of seemingly never ending darkness, don't worry, because the days do start to get (gradually) longer again once the shortest day of the year has passed. The winter solstice actually means the sun is on its way back, and the days will officially start getting longer and lighter. 

The world 'solstice' comes from the Latin solstitium meaning 'Sun stands still', because in that moment the movement of the sun's path stops before changing direction.

How to celebrate winter solstice

Winter solstice is celebrated differently all over the world with different festivals and traditions. In the UK, many people wishing to celebrate the event flock to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. This is because the monument is lined up so that the sun's rays can be glimpsed through the stones at the winter solstice sunrise.

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But there are plenty of simpler, family friendly ways to celebrate winter solstice without making the trip to the historic landmark. You might want to get your little ones involved to help them understand more about winter solstice, and have a go at seasonal crafts like paper snowflakes using our free templates (opens in new tab). Or why not keep warm in the kitchen with some baking? Kids love our easy choc chip cookie recipe (opens in new tab) - just make sure they don't eat all of the chocolate before it makes it into the dough!

And if you need ideas for how to keep kids entertained on cold, dark days, then we've got a long list of games, crafts, activities and ideas for kids here (opens in new tab) you could try. 

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Lucy Buglass
Digital Writer

Lucy Buglass is a Digital Writer for What's on TV, Goodto.com, and Woman&Home. After finishing her degree in Film Studies at Oxford Brookes University she moved to London to begin her career. She's passionate about entertainment and spends most of her free time watching Netflix series, BBC dramas, or going to the cinema to catch the latest film releases. 

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