December 22nd, 2015 marks the winter solstice and the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice officially occurred at 4:48am UTC, or 11:48pm EST on December 21st. The Earth is in close proximity to the sun, though the northern axis is tilting away from the sun. The winter solstice is often followed by cold temperatures. Depending on your location, winter may not be as cold or have much snow due to the strong El Niño effect this year. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and longest night of the year. The winter solstice is of high importance in many cultures across the globe.