03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Winter Solstice 2009: Time, Traditions, And Information On Shortest Day Of The Year

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.

Besides being the shortest day of the year and the official start of winter, today also marks the astrological shift to the sign Capricorn.

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.

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