Winter solstice 2016 occurs Wednesday

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Winter solstice 2016 in the northern hemisphere will occur at 5:44 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 21. (AccuWeather)

The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year in terms of hours of daylight. However, the solstice is a signal for more daylight to come in the following days, and it's one of the origins of the modern winter holidays.

"The winter solstice begins when the direct rays from the sun reach a point on the Earth, and that point is known as the Tropic of Capricorn," said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Bernie Rayno. "It is the beginning of winter for the northern hemisphere. Summer, of course, for the southern hemisphere, and it's also the shortest day of the year as far as sunlight is concerned."

Winter solstice 2016 in the northern hemisphere will occur at 5:44 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Dec. 21.

When Christianity came onto the world scene, ancient solstice celebrations evolved into Christmas, according to AccuWeather. The time of the birth of Jesus Christ is thought not to have occurred in December, but was changed to fit the season's celebrations.

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