Winter Solstice is December 21st or the 22nd, depending on the time zone!
"The winter solstice--the moment when the sun's apparent path is farthest south from the Equator--is used to officially mark winter's beginning." ~ Library of Congress
It's been celebrated for hundreds of years in all cultures across the globe. Many ancient sites were built to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes, one of the more famous: Stonehenge.
I found these thirteen fun facts/theories on the net:
1. Christmas was transplanted onto winter solstice some 1,600 years ago, centuries before the English language emerged from its Germanic roots. ~ Candlegrove Solstice Page
2. For the first time, the 2007 Winter Solstice illumination at Newgrange in Ireland will be available live on the Internet, weather conditions permitting. See the Newgrange page. The passage and chamber at Newgrange will be illuminated by the rising sun on 2007-DEC-21 between 08:58 and 09:15 GMT.
3. ANCIENT EGYPT: The god-man/savior Osiris died and was entombed on DEC-21. "At midnight, the priests emerged from an inner shrine crying 'The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing,' and showing the image of a baby to the worshipers." ~ Religious Tolerance; the Solstice
4. A solstice occurs twice a year, whenever Earth's axis tilts the most toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun to be farthest north or south at noon. The name is derived from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstice, the Sun stands still in declination, that is, its movement north or south is minimal. ~ Wikipedia
The ancients used Christmas holly for their winter solstice rituals:
5. Sprigs from Christmas holly trees were worn in the hair during the mistletoe rituals performed by the priests of the Celts, the Druids, at the summer and winter solstice observances. The pointy leaves of holly trees were thought to afford magical protection against evil spirits. Holly tree sprigs were also brought into their dwellings during the cold-weather months in the belief that they afforded shelter to the fairies, those tiny spirits of the forest. ~ Source: Mara Freeman; Winter Landscaping
6. For the Romans, "Holly was used to honor Saturn, god of agriculture, during their Saturnalia festival held near the time of the winter solstice. The Romans gave one another holly wreaths, carried it in processions, and decked images of Saturn with it," according to the Kentucky Cooperative Extension (the Saturnalia was the festival upon which the Christmas holiday was directly modeled).
7. There's a movie titled "Winter Solstice" made in 2004:
Landscape gardener Jim Winters is a quiet craftsman, a soft-spoken man who prefers an orderly life. His family, however, is anything but orderly. Older son Gabe is planning his escape to Florida, leaving behind any shot at a stable future with his girlfriend. Younger son Pete has retreated into a private world of anger, drift and disappointment. Jim struggles watching his sons make choices he views as disastrous compromises. It is only when he meets his new neighbor, Molly, that Jim finds a way to deal with his own life and his family's future. Written by Sujit R. Varma8. Sacred plants of winter solstice: mistletoe, holly, evergreen, oak, ivy, wheat, frankincense, myrrh, silver fir, birch, yew. ~ Circle Sanctuary - Yule Plants
9. Drink of the solstice: Wassail is a centuries old English ceremonial cider used as an apple tree spirit offering during the Yuletide season to bless orchards and increase their yields. The word Wassail is from the Saxon for "Good Health" and a traditional toast is to hold high a cup of Wassail while exclaiming "Waes Heal!" Making and serving Wassail has been one of my favorite Winter holiday traditions.
10. Musician, Paul Winters, puts on a winter solstice event in New York. For eleven years, Winter has gathered musicians from around the world in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York to create inspired, spontaneous music at the spiritually charged moment of the summer solstice. ~ Living Music
It can be heard on NPR radio...
Or if this isn't music to your liking...
11. Winter Solstice, a 5 piece hardcore influenced thrash metal outfit located in Lynchburg, VA, began their journey as a band in the fall of 2000. ~ Metal Blade
12. On December 21, 1928, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Boulder Canyon Project Act intended to dam the fourteen hundred mile Colorado River and distribute its water for use in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Hoover Dam, considered a wonder of civil engineering, was constructed in Black Canyon, on the Arizona-Nevada border. Often referred to as Boulder Dam, the site was officially named after Herbert Hoover, an engineer actively engaged in the dam's development and distribution of its water rights, and president-elect on this day in 1928. ~ Library of Congress
13. China and the winter solstice: As ancient Chinese thought, the yang, or muscular, positive things will become stronger and stronger after this day, so it should be celebrated. The Winter Solstice became a festival during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and thrived in the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279). The Han people regarded Winter Solstice as a "Winter Festival", so officials would organize celebrating activities. On this day, both officials and common people would have a rest. The army was stationed in, frontier fortresses closed and business and traveling stopped. Relatives and friends presented to each other delicious food.
In the Tang and Song dynasties, the Winter Solstice was a day to offer scarifies to Heaven and ancestors. Emperors would go to suburbs to worship the Heaven; while common people offered sacrifices to their deceased parents or other relatives. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) even had the record that "Winter Solstice is as formal as the Spring Festival," showing the great importance attached to this day. ~ China.Org
Wishing everyone a very joyful and beautiful holiday season!