Snow covered pine trees
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What You Need to Know About Winter Solstice 2014

Dec 21, 2014

Winter solstice, falling this year on Sunday, Dec. 21, marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. More precisely, winter officially begins at 6:03 p.m. ET — the moment when the Northern Hemisphere is pointed at its furthest distance from the sun. This means winter solstice boasts the longest night and the shortest day, and often colder temperatures, too.

But the good news? If you're not a fan of winter, from each day on after the solstice, the days will get longer and warmer until the calendar hits summer solstice, June 21, 2015. Summer solstice marks the first day of summer, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

READ MORE: 5 Things to Know About the Winter Solstice

Like last year, Google released an animated Google Doodle for this year's winter solstice. This year's doodle shows Father Christmas — the British predecessor to Santa — helping two children build a snowman, before the kids' mother appears and pulls a carrot from her bag for the snowman's nose. Christmas has become associated with winter solstice, which serves as a turning point in many cultures.

See Google Doodles Through the Years

google doodle la tomatina
Aug. 26, 2015 For the 70th anniversary of La Tomatina.Google
google doodle la tomatina
Google doodle sally ride
Google-Doodle-Eiffel-Tower-France
Mar. 20, 2015 To celebrate the start of spring and the vernal equinox, Google created a stop-motion animation of flowers in bloom.
Nov. 12, 2014 For the landing of the Philae lander, the first spacecraft on a moving comet, Google created a gyrating lander with passing stars.
Sept. 9, 2014 For Tolstoy's 186th birthday the Google Doodle team created an appropriately long doodle, with a click-through doodle. http://time.com/3308635/google-doodle-tolstoy/
May 4 2014 For the Audrey Hepburn doodle http://time.com/87152/google-doodle-audrey-hepburn/ the doodle team adapted an image from a 1956 black and white photograph taken by Yousuf Karsh.
June 9, 2011 The doodlers came up with the idea of a playable logo, then pegged it to guitar innovator Les Paul's 96th birthday. Turning on composer mode allows you to create songs that you can share online.
March 24, 2011 The Harry Houdini doodle was created in the style of the old posters advertising the death-defying magician.
Nov. 25, 2010 Chef Ina Garten prepared this Thanksgiving feast, which Google photographed. If you clicked on a dish, her recipe appeared.
May 7, 2010 Google asked the San Francisco Ballet to pose and twirl to re-create Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.
Oct. 7, 2009 Scan the doodle that marks the first patent for the bar code and you'll decode Google embedded within.
March 2, 2009 The doodlers arranged classic Dr. Seuss characters, like the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch, to form the logo's letters.
Jan. 28, 2009 There was no other way to honor abstract artist Jackson Pollack than with a chaotic drip painting.
Jan. 19, 2009 Guest artist Shepard Fairey (famed for his Obama HOPE poster) did a sketch for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Jan. 28, 2008 Early on, Google used Lego blocks as casing for hard disks. Later it feted Lego's 50th anniversary.
April 22, 2007 A melting iceberg for Earth Day is one of many eco-minded doodles the team has created.
Jan. 4, 2006 Enter the world of out-there doodles — Google in braille. Only problem: you can't feel it.
March 30, 2005 The Van Gogh doodle appeared in an era when doodles began to get more ambitious, and it's one of the doodlers' best interpretations of a specific painter.
Aug. 13, 2003 Early doodles of famous folk tended to be simple, like this silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock.
March 14, 2003 The early doodles were often simple but playful, like this mustachioed drawing of Albert Einstein to celebrate his birthday.
Nov. 14, 2001 Google's first doodler, Dennis Hwang, gave the logo an Impressionist look for Claude Monet's birthday.
Aug. 30, 1998 When employees left for the Burning Man festival, the Google logo became a cryptic BE BACK LATER sign. "There was no master plan for doodles at that point," says doodler-in-chief Ryan Germick.
Aug. 26, 2015 For the 70th anniversary of La Tomatina.
Google
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