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Crowds gather at Newgrange for winter solstice

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Toby Melville—Reuters

A Doodle marking the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere was also released featuring the same mouse reading a book inside his home before getting distracted by a bright beam of sunlight that enters his domain due to a bird.

Druids still gather at Stonehenge in the West Country to mark the occasion to this day, pagan revellers meeting at dawn to observe the morning sun rising over the ancient circle's Heel Stone. They experience their longest day and shortest night of the year. What really matters is that the account is one more little nudge to feel better during the long slog of winter. This astronomical quirk happens because of Earth's 23.5-degree tilt and our elliptical orbit around the sun. For a complete listing of the dates of the winter and summer solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes through 2025, check out this calendar from the U.S. Eastern Time on December 21.

Contrary to popular belief, the winter solstice isn't the earliest sunset of the year.

Why isn't the winter solstice on the same day each year?

Winter Solstice Is Celebrated At Stonehenge
Crowds gather at Newgrange for winter solstice

And that's why, for millennia, humans have celebrated the solstice-for the return of the sun that it marks.

That means that December 21 will be the shortest day of the year, with the least amount of hours of sunlight.

"The coldest time usually comes a month or two later because even though the amount of solar heating is beginning to increase, it isn't yet enough to reverse the cooling", Schneider says.

The winter solstice may be the shortest day of the year, but that doesn't mean you'll have an early sunset. Learn more about the solstice and why it's not the coldest day of the year in our scientific guide below. The Stonehenge monument is shaped so it aligns with the winter's solstice sunset.

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