The winter solstice is the longest night of the year, and the period when the Northern Hemisphere is farthest from the sun.[slideshow:103435]
This unique annual astrological phenomenon was recognized by ancient cultures around the world, who would celebrate this day as a pivotal time of year. Romans, druids, Native Americans and Japanese Buddhists all recognized the winter solstice as a time for harvest, renewal and expectation for the coming sun and light.
Today, different cities mark the occasion with a variety of festivities, some based in ancient traditions and others based in modern merry-making.
Read on to discover what makes the winter solstice such a unique time of year.