Select Page

But the light always returns

Nine hours, 15 minutes and nine seconds.

That’s how long The Legal Genealogist can expect daylight today.

Winter solsticeToday.

December 21.

The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

The sun rose at 7:17 a.m. today and will set at 4:32 p.m. in Central New Jersey,1 and the winter solstice arrives at 11:28 a.m. Eastern time. That’s “the precise moment at which the Northern Hemisphere is tilted farthest from the sun.”2

Now nine hours, 15 minutes and nine seconds is thoroughly depressing. And the fact that winter will only get worse from here on out makes it even more depressing.

Until I realized three things.

First, it could be a lot worse. A whole lot worse.

In Fairbanks, Alaska, the sun won’t rise until 10:50 a.m. and will set at 2:41 p.m. That’s three hours and 42 minutes of daylight. About a third of what I can expect to see. And in Barrow, north of the Arctic Circle, there will be 67 full days without sunlight — from November 18 to January 23.3

Second, cold dark weather means more time inside… researching ancestors. Maybe finally proving definitively which of my 4th great grandfather William Battles’ two wives was my fourth great grandmother.4 Or — sigh — figuring out who the parents were for my rascal second great grandfather George Cottrell.5

And, third, starting tomorrow… the days get longer.

Two whole seconds longer tomorrow than today. Six seconds longer on Saturday. Ten seconds on Sunday, 15 on Monday.6

The light always returns.


  1. Len Melisurgo, “First day of winter 2017: 5 facts about the winter solstice, shortest day of year,”, posted 21 Dec 2017 ( : accessed 21 Dec 2017).
  2. Doyle Rice, “Thursday’s winter solstice marks the longest night of the year,” USAToday, posted 19 Dec 2017 ( : accessed 21 Dec 2017).
  3. Shortest Day in Alaska,” ( : accessed 21 Dec 2017).
  4. See Judy G. Russell, “Getting closer!,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 23 Nov 2014 ( : accessed 21 Dec 2017).
  5. See ibid., “Oh George… you stinker!,” posted 9 June 2012, and “How many Georges?,” posted 6 Aug 2016.
  6. Newark, New Jersey, USA — Sunrise, Sunset, and Daylength, December 2017,” ( : accessed 21 Dec 2017).
Print Friendly, PDF & Email