It's more than just the shortest day of the year.

The winter solstice (for the northern hemisphere) is not only on the 21st, it happens at an exact moment. The exact moment of the winter solstice is when the North Pole is directed as far away as possible from the sun. It's a 23.5 degree tilt on the Earth's axis. This moment happened at 10:28 a.m. in the Central Time Zone.

It is the shortest day of the year (for the glass is half empty people) and the longest night of the year (for the glass is half full people.) The sun sets at 4:39 p.m. in the Cedar Valley and we only get 9 hours and 3 minutes of daylight today.

The word Solstice translates roughly to "Sun Stands Still". Which makes sense considering it's a pause before we start angling back towards the sun. Some ancient cultures viewed the winter solstice as a time of death and rebirth. This is because we are making our way back to the sun. The yule log was burned as a symbol of that we are welcoming back the light.

There were also many cultures that believed that this was a night of spirits much like Halloween since it is the longest night of the year. These stories were common in Celtic and Germanic folklore.