Solstice Stonehenge

The sun rises following the winter solstice at Stonehenge last year.

If it feels like there are fewer hours in the day, you’re not imagining things.

The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is coming up. Saturday, Dec. 21, is also the longest night of the year and the first day of winter.

After that day passes, the sun will stick around longer as we inch toward the summer solstice in June.

How short of a day is the shortest day of the year? Lancaster will have nine hours and 19 minutes of daylight, almost six hours less daylight than the summer solstice.

If that sounds short, consider Anchorage, Alaska will have about five and a half hours of daylight.

In Lancaster County, the 2019 winter solstice is at 11:19 p.m.

Around the world, the winter solstice has wide range of traditions, some thousands of years old.

In China, Dong Zhi is celebrated with a big family meal including tang yuan (rice balls).

In England, people gather at Stonehenge at dawn to watch the sun rise over the stone formation.

In Japan, people soak in hot baths with yuzu fruits to ward off the common cold.

Here are a few ways to celebrate in Lancaster County.

Final full moon of the decade will be at its brightest at 12:12 a.m. on 12/12

Explore the solstice sky at a solstice open house at Muddy Run Observatory, Holtwood. The open house is Saturday, Dec. 21, 6-10 p.m. 

Take a solstice yoga class at The Yoga Place in the Ephrata area. The class will be followed by a deep relaxation technique called yoga nidra and then seated meditation with candle gazing. The class is $20 and is Saturday, Dec. 21, 3-4:30 p.m. Register online

Learn about the science and cultural traditions of the solstice with Lancaster Parks Department. Naturalist Brandon Pentz will lead the class at Lancaster County Central Park, show how to make pomanders (clove oranges) and, weather-permitting, explore the night sky. The class is Saturday, Dec. 21, 6-7:30 p.m. $3 for ages 4 and older and $2 per pomander. Register online or call 717-295-2055 by Friday, Dec. 20 at noon.

Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster has winter solstice celebrations Friday, Dec. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Free. No tickets are required.

Join a musical solstice celebration at Lancaster Metaphysical Chapel. Visitors are welcome. Bring percussion instruments and noisemakers. The celebration is Saturday, Dec. 21, 6-7 p.m. 

Watch a solstice concert with NFP Trio, Friday, Dec. 20, 6-7:30 p.m. (donation requested) and a solstice tarot reading ($50), Saturday, Dec. 21, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Radiance in Lancaster.