Dec. 22, 2014 – Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice (Northern) History
The Winter Solstice happens every year around December 21 or 22. It marks the shortest day of the year as the Northern Hemisphere is angled the farthest away from the Sun on this day.

Facts about Winter Solstice (Northern)
On the Winter Solstice there are 24 hours of sunlight in the Antarctic Circle, and 24 hours of darkness in the Arctic Circle.

Many pagan rituals have revolved around the Winter Solstice. The short days and long hours of darkness prompted rituals intended to lure the Sun back.Winter Solstice

The Mayan calendar ended on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012.
10 inches of snow melts down into only 1 inch of rain.

Winter Solstice (Northern) Top Events and Things to Do
Eat more Vitamin-D rich foods to balance out the lack of sunlight.
Light some candles and enjoy the early evening.
Finish some last minute Christmas shopping.
Purchase a Christmas tree. Tip: For a more environmentally friendly Christmas, purchase a Live trees in a burlap root sack that can be planted after the holiday.
Watch the lunar eclipse which happens within several days of the winter solstice.

 

Click here to find out more from the Farmer’s Almanac.

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Winter Solstice 2014

The December solstice marks the longest night in Northern Hemisphere and longest day in the Southern Hemisphere.  This year the December solstice comes on Dec. 21 at 5:30 pm, Central Standard Time.  (On Universal Time, it is December 21 at 23:03.)

Winter Solstice

The Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day and longest night of the year.

Deborah Byrd of EarthSky.org  writes, “It’s a seasonal shift that nearly everyone notices.

What is a solstice? The earliest people on Earth knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments such as Stonehenge in England – or, for example, at Machu Picchu in Peru – to follow the sun’s yearly progress.

But we today see the solstice differently. We can picture it from the vantage point of space. Today, we know that the solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis, and its motion in orbit around the sun.

Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. The tilt of the Earth – not our distance from the sun – is what causes winter and summer. At the December solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning most away from the sun for the year.

At the December solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the sun stays below the north pole horizon. As seen from 23-and-a-half degrees south of the equator, at the imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun shines directly overhead at noon. This is as far south as the sun ever gets. All locations south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the December solstice. Meanwhile, all locations north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.

Where should I look to see signs of the solstice in nature? Everywhere.

For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of daylight. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of all light and warmth on Earth.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you can notice the late dawns and early sunsets, and the low arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might notice how low the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the December solstice, it’s your longest noontime shadow of the year.

In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s opposite. Dawn comes early, and dusk comes late. The sun is high. It’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year.

Why doesn’t the earliest sunset come on the shortest day? The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and longest day in the southern hemisphere. But the earliest sunset – or earliest sunrise if you’re south of the equator – happens before the solstice. Many people notice this, and ask about it.

The key to understanding the earliest sunset is not to focus on the time of sunset or sunrise. The key is to focus on what is called true solar noon – the time of day that the sun reaches its highest point, in its journey across your sky.

In early December, true solar noon comes nearly 10 minutes earlier by the clock than it does at the solstice around December 21. With true noon coming later on the solstice, so will the sunrise and sunset times.

It’s this discrepancy between clock time and sun time that causes the earliest sunset and the earliest sunrise to precede the December solstice.

The discrepancy occurs primarily because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis. A secondary but another contributing factor to this discrepancy between clock noon and sun noon comes from the Earth’s elliptical – oblong – orbit around the sun. The Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle, and when we’re closest to the sun, our world moves fastest in orbit. Our closest point to the sun – or perihelion – comes in early January. So we are moving fastest in orbit around now, slightly faster than our average speed of 18 miles per second.
The precise date of the earliest sunset depends on your latitude. At mid northern latitudes, it comes in early December each year. At northern temperate latitudes farther north – such as in Canada and Alaska – the year’s earliest sunset comes around mid-December. Close to the Arctic Circle, the earliest sunset and the December solstice occur on or near the same day.

By the way, the latest sunrise doesn’t come on the solstice either. From mid-northern latitudes, the latest sunrise comes in early January.

The exact dates vary, but the sequence is always the same: earliest sunset in early December, shortest day on the solstice around December 21, latest sunrise in early January.

And so the cycle continues.

Bottom line: In 2014, the December solstice comes on December 21 at 5:03 p.m. CST. That’s December 21 at 23:03 UT. Happy solstice, everyone!”

Hot Chocolate Mix

Yield:  One batch makes Four 6-oz. servings of hot chocolate.

hot chocolate
Enjoy a cup of delicious-ness!

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz.  pkg. (Eight 1-ounce squares) semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:  Finely chop the chocolate squares with a sharp knife.  Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl.

If giving as a gift, spoon the mixture into 2 sandwich-size zipper-closing bags and include directions on a card in each bag.

 

Hot Chocolate Mix Directions: 

To prepare 1 serving: Place 1/4 c. hot chocolate mix and 2/3 c. milk in a small saucepan.   Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until the chocolate is melted.

Red Velvet Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Red Velvet Cheesecake

Photo by Taste of Home

  • 17 chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies, crushed
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1 TBsp sugar

FILLING:

  • 3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  •  3 TBsp. baking cocoa
  •  2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  •  1 bottle (1 ounce) red food coloring

FROSTING:

  • 1 package (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  •  1/4 cup butter, softened
  •  2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 

  1. Place a greased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Securely wrap foil around pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, butter and sugar. Press onto the bottom of prepared pan.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, buttermilk, cocoa and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in food coloring. Pour over crust. Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan.
  4. Bake at 325° for 60-70 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan.
  5. For frosting, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth. Frost top of cheesecake. Refrigerate until serving.

Yield: 16 servings.

Originally published as Red Velvet Cheesecake in Country Woman December/January 2012, p42

Kraft® Almond Heart Napoleons

Almond Heart Napoleons

Fall in love with this tasty treat from Kraft®!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 pkg. (17.3 oz.) frozen puff pastry sheets
  • 1 1/2c. cold Half-and-Half
  • 2 Tbsp. almond-flavored liquer or 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3.9 oz. pkg. JELL-O French Vanilla or Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. hot water
  • 1 square Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

Directions: Thaw the pastry at room temperature for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Unfold the pastry.

Using a 2 inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut each sheet into 12 hearts. Place on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the baking sheets and let cool completely on wire racks. Spilt each heart in half horizontally.

Pour the half-and-half and almond liquor or extract into a bowl, then add the dry pudding mix. Beat with a wire whisk 2 minutes or until well blended. Refrigerate 10 minutes.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the pudding mixture onto the bottom half of each heart; top with remaining pastry halves. Stir the hot water into the powdered sugar to make a thin glaze. Spread on top of the hearts. (If glaze becomes too thick, add more hot water.)

Drizzle the melted chocolate on top to form thin lines.

Yield: 24 Servings