Winter Solstice takes place today, Dec. 21, 2009. The astronomical event takes place when the Earth tilts farthest from the sun and occurs at precisely 12:47 p.m. EST, or 17:47 UTC.
The word "solstice" is derived from the Latin phrase the "sun stands still," and its history goes back to ancient times, when special ceremonies and Yule festivals were held, according to National Geographic.
Some cities are planning events today in conjunction with Winter Solstice.
Most notably, Fairbanks, Alaska, is hosting "Solstice Fest," a festival complete with a lights show, live entertainment, and fireworks.