Winter solstice is something to celebrate

Yes, the days are getting shorter and shorter and shorter. But that depressing trend will stop once the winter solstice occurs.

That’s the moment the earth is tilted farthest away from the sun — resulting in the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In Boston, the solstice occurs at 11:28 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21.

Of course, nothing quite beats observing the phenomenon at Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, where visitors from around the world gather to watch the sun rise above the stones. But there are some celebrations closer to home, as well.

The public is invited to witness sunrise and sunset among the standing stones of the UMass Amherst Sunwheel on Thursday at 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (The event will be canceled in the event of heavy rain or snow.)


UMass Amherst astronomer Stephen Schneider will talk about the astronomical cause of the solstice, and explain the design of the Sunwheel and other calendar sites such as the Temple of Karnak in Egypt and Chankillo in Peru. If it’s clear out, telescopes will be set up to observe the crescent moon and to safely observe the surface of the sun.

The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road about one-quarter mile south of University Drive.

The Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield celebrates the Winter Solstice with a lantern-guided hayride up Fox Hill to enjoy the winter stars. Guests can bring their own box dinners — the sanctuary supplies hot cocoa, dessert, and hay bale seating around a campfire. The event takes place Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Register online or call 781-837-9400.

There’s more holiday fun ahead once the days start growing longer again.

Beginning Friday, Disney on Ice presents “Dream Big” at Agganis Arena, 925 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Eight Disney princesses — Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, Jasmine, Aurora, and Snow White — skate their way through adventures as they try to make their dreams come true. The show runs through Jan. 1. To order tickets, call 800-745-3000 or go to www.ticketmaster.com.


Leslie Anderson can be reached at leslie.anderson@globe.com.