Celebrate Winter Solstice 2011 in Chicago.

Celebrate Winter Solstice 2011 in Chicago.

Chicago, December 21, 2011. These December days may be dark and dreary, but on the bright side, after today, the days will start to get progressively brighter, up until the Summer Solstice in June.  Today at 11:30p.m. CST, we mark the arrival of the Winter Solstice.  This day, often referred to as the shortest day of the year, has 24 hours just as every other day of the year--it just seems shorter.

Be prepared for a grand total of 9 hours, 7 minutes and 43 seconds of daylight today (not taking into account the fog or clouds).  Compare this to the Summer Solstice which occurs, depending upon the year on June 21 or 22, with its 15 hours, 13 minutes and 44 seconds of daylight offering a whooping 6 hours and 6 minutes more daylight than we will see today.

Celebrations in Chicago.

In many parts of the world the Winter Solstice is cause for celebration.   Chicagoans, who can always find a reason to celebrate, surprisingly do not have a ton of Winter Solstice celebrations (there are more events for the Summer Solstice)--marketing people take note!

One small celebration takes place in the pre-dawn hours in Wrigleyville.  This year, the 21st Annual Winter Solstice Concert will kick off at 6:00a.m. tomorrow and Friday at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield (Clark and Newport). The hour-long performance will feature light from a dozen candles and music from percussion instruments from North Africa, the Middle East, and East India, as well as Western orchestral instruments with drummers Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang performing.  A limited number of tickets ($20.00) are available for purchase at the door at 5:30 a.m. the morning of each concert or online.

Another celebration takes place, north of the border at the Kuhnbenn Brewing Company in Warren Michigan.  The brewery's Winter Solstice 2011 Beer Event kicks off at 11:00a.m.today and continues through 11:00p.m. tonight.  The event features a selection of beers, complimentary smoked ham and turkey sandwiches plus Wassail cheers served after dark (which, thankfully, arrives early on this day). 5919 Chicago Rd. Warren, Michigan (586) 979 8361.

What exactly is the solstice?

The word “solstice” is Latin for “sun-stand still". The Winter Solstice is the day when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator.  The Summer Solstice is the exact opposite.  The Winter Solstice also marks the start of winter.

Celebrations around the world.

In Stonehenge, England, thousands gather to dance and sing while watching the sunrise over the stones. For the Chinese, the winter solstice brings families together as many take part in the tradition of making glutinous balls of rice at the "Dongzhi" Festival.  Street processions are a common feature on this day in Japan and Ireland.

It could be worse.

Anchorage sunrise occurs at 10:14 a.m. with sunset following five hours and 27 minutes later at 3:41 p.m. leaving the city with 18 plus hours of darkness for the day.

In the Arctic the sun comes up for 2 hours and 11 minutes today, however most will not be able to see it because the angle of the "sun" puts it below the horizon leaving the area in total darkness, not just today but for the next couple of months.

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