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It's the shortest day of the year. Things can only get brighter from here

People walk their dogs along a narrow road as the first winter frost blankets the fields in Oudeland van Strijen in the Netherlands on Tuesday. It's the shortest day of the year and official start of winter.
Jeffrey Groeneweg
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ANP/AFP via Getty Images
People walk their dogs along a narrow road as the first winter frost blankets the fields in Oudeland van Strijen in the Netherlands on Tuesday. It's the shortest day of the year and official start of winter.

Tuesday is the winter solstice, at least if you're in the Northern Hemisphere. In addition to marking the official start of winter, it's also the shortest day (and longest night) of the year.

That means from here until the end of June, each day will get a little bit longer — and brighter. Just 182 days to go until summertime!

In the meantime, here are some ways you can celebrate the solstice and prepare for the season:

Catch a glimpse of the last meteor shower of the year

The Ursid meteor shower is expected to peak in the early morning hours Wednesday. It traditionally gets less attention than the famously dazzling Geminid meteor shower, which happened Dec. 13.

Space.com predicts the Ursids will be especially hard to spot this year because of the bright light of a waning gibbous moon.

"With the peak of the Ursids coming just a few nights after the full moon, [it] means that these meteors will be in direct competition with what will be in essence a giant celestial floodlight illuminating the sky on the first full night of winter," it explains.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth looking if you happen to be awake and, ideally, out in the country. EarthSky has these tips: Dress warmly, bring a sleeping bag and plan to spend several hours camped out under a dark sky, beginning in the early morning hours.

"Will you see some?" it adds. "It'll be tough in the moonlight ... but maybe!"

Read The Shortest Day and hear an interview with its award-winning author

Susan Cooper's children's book The Shortest Day, released in 2019, is a celebration of light returning after the winter solstice.

The text of the book is actually a poem she wrote in the 1970s for The Christmas Revels (an annual celebration of the solstice) and has been read at such events for more than four decades. Cooper, herself a Newbery winner, partnered with Caldecott-winning illustrator Carson Ellis to bring its colorful imagery and wintery atmospherics to life.

Read or listen to NPR's 2019 story on the beautiful book, or hear snippets of Cooper reading it out loud.

Revisit the 40th Paul Winter Consort annual winter solstice concert

Fittingly named saxophone player Paul Winter has been ushering in the winter solstice with a special concert for decades.

Since 1980, the Grammy winner and his slew of special guests have gathered in New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine to mark the occasion with music and dance.

When COVID-19 forced the event to go remote last year, NPR put together a special recording of the previous year's 40th-anniversary celebration, complete with an audio recording and several videos. The 2019 edition featured familiar faces like gospel singer Theresa Thomason, as well as an especially special guest — Noel Paul Stookey, aka Paul from Peter, Paul and Mary. Check it out here.

And for those curious: Winter has in fact put together another celebration this year, for the 42nd solstice in a row. It's called Solstice Saga and his website says it will be a "comprehensive retrospective" highlighting iconic performances from the last four decades.

Prepare to do some "wintering"

A great book to cozy up with in the dark and chilly season is Wintering, by Katherine May. The English writer sees the winter as a transformative time, and set out to explore how people in different cultures accept and even welcome the season.

She's visited Stonehenge during the winter solstice, seen the northern lights in the Arctic, soaked in Iceland's Blue Lagoon and submerged herself in freezing waters. She writes about those experiences — and lessons for getting through tough times — in her book, which also offers some rays of hope.

"Every time we winter, we develop a new knowledge about how to go back into the world," May told Morning Edition last year. "You know, we learn about our tastes and preferences. We learn about what makes us happy. There's no easy answers to any of this, but I do think it makes us more profoundly human. And when we winter, we engage in the work of adaptation and change."

Read or listen to the full interview here. And if you're looking to add more books to your shelves this winter, check out NPR's book recommendations tool.

Take care of yourself

Don't forget your physical and mental health, especially with COVID-19 surging and flu season approaching. Here are some resources from across NPR:

  • How to cope with SAD, or seasonal affective disorder
  • FAQs for combined cold, flu and COVID season
  • How to break out of your pandemic slump
  • Tips for coping with COVID anxiety this winter
  • 9 creative ways to socialize safely
  • Evidence-based tricks for how to be happier
  • How to move more and celebrate outside this holiday season

  • This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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    Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.