This year, the winter solstice will occur on Thursday, Dec. 22, and will mark the shortest day and the longest night of the year for the Northern Hemisphere.

The earth's axis is tilted, and twice a year the angle will reach its maximum tilt of 23.5 degrees. On the day of the winter solstice, the North Pole will tilt to its furthest point from the sun and will be making its most southerly arc across the horizon.

The opposite, the summer solstice, happens when it tilts towards the sun, resulting in the longest day and shortest night of the year.

The annual celestial event is celebrated in many cultures around the world.

It is believed that Stonehenge, in England, was built to celebrate the winter solstice, which gave farmers the promise of the return of the growing season. In Japan and Ireland, there are street processions held on this day. Rituals include lighting candles, which symbolizes the return of the sun to ensure that the people are able to survive.

After the winter solstice the days will get longer and the sun will appear to climb higher in the sky.

According to the long range weather report from the Almanac, this time the winter will be drier than normal, with near-normal temperatures but above-normal snowfall.