Winter comes around every year – and yet, there are a few details about the chilliest season which may still mystify you.
So, we’ve collected the questions which we’re all starting to Google around this time of year and answered them for you, just to make this difficult season a little bit easier...
When is Christmas Jumper Day?
The general public are encouraged to “make the world better with a sweater” with this charitable endeavour.
If you haven’t taken part before, you can join in with the initiative just by signing up at the following link, putting on a Christmassy jumper and donating £2 (or £1 for school children) to Save the Children.
The campaign first launched back in 2012 and has raised £30 million around the world in the years since.
When does winter actually start?
If you stick by the meteorological definition of seasons, winter technically starts on December 1, which falls on a Friday this year.
This is the metric the Met Office – and most authorities – follow. The seasons are split into four periods made up of three months each, to coincide with the Georgian calendar.
But, if you’re following astronomical signs instead, winter will only begin on Friday, December 22, this year – and end on Wednesday, March 20.
For those in the northern hemisphere, that means it starts at the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. For people in the southern hemisphere, December 22 will be summer solstice – the longest day of the year.
The astronomical winter will conclude at the spring equinox, when there will be 12 hours of sunlight almost everywhere on Earth.
The dates of the astronomical calendar shift slightly every year. The solar year is approximately 365.2422 Earth days long, according to National Geographic.
That’s why we tend to use the meteorological seasons to measure the years instead.
But, that doesn’t mean we should dismiss astronomical measures. The Met Office explains that the astronomical calendar “determines the seasons due to the 23.5 degrees of tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis in relation to its orbit around the Sun”.
Basically, this tilt drives each of the seasons. If the Earth wasn’t tilted, we wouldn’t have seasons at all.
Is the Earth furthest from the Sun during northern hemisphere winter?
No, it’s actually the opposite.
The Earth is closest to the Sun during the northern hemisphere’s winter and the southern hemisphere’s summer.
The Earth reaches its closest point around January 3 (known as perihelion). At that point, it’s 3.1 million miles closer to the Sun than at aphelion, July 5, when the Earth is furthest from the Sun.
This is why northern hemisphere winter is shorter than northern hemisphere summer.
As the Met Office explained: “Around perihelion, the Earth is moving around one kilometre per second faster than at aphelion which results in winter being five days shorter than summer.”
Where did the word ‘winter’ come from?
It can be traced back to the Germanic word “wintar”, which comes from the root word “wed” – that means “wet” or “water” and so signifies a wet season.
And, even though it’s known as a wet season, on average, 12cm of snow produces only 1cm of water.
Despite being a particularly difficult time of year, winter has always been a pivotal time for Brits.
In fact, during Anglo-Saxon era, winters were a measure of someone’s age. So people would be “X winters old”, according to the Met Office.