The winter solstice occurs on Dec. 21 at 5:44 a.m. EST (10:44 UT) and winter begins. It is the shortest day – or more correctly, shortest daylight – of the year. At our latitude the Sun rises (7:43 a.m.) in the southeast and sets (5:26 p.m.) in the southwest (Knoxville times).
The Sun “stands still” (solstice) in its apparent movement south, reversing direction. Historically this date was called midwinter; and our beginning of summer, around June 21, was called midsummer (as in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer’s Night Dream”).
Interestingly, the first day of winter is not the date of earliest sunset or latest sunrise. Those dates are approximately Dec. 6 (5:21 p.m.) and Jan. 7 (7:47 a.m.) respectively. That phenomenon is caused by progression, according to astronomers.