"In the sheltered heart of the clumps last year's foliage still clings to the lower branches, tatters of orange that mutter with the passage of the wind, the talk of old women warning the green generation of what they, too, must come to when the sap runs back."
- Jacquetta Hawkes

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Winter: The Bitter Cold

Winter begins at the winter solstice when the Earth's pole is pointing away from the sun. Because the Earth's pole is tilted about 22.5° away from the sun, less sunlight is coming down on the hemisphere in question. In fact, throughout the fall or autumn the number of daylight hours per day have been growing fewer. By the time of the winter solstice the weather has become decidedly cold - excluding the region between the tropics (of Cancer and Capricorn).

A Tree in Winter

Because the Earth's orbit is elliptical and not exactly helio-centric (the sun is not the true center), the Earth is slightly closer to the sun during the winter of the northern hemisphere. This keeps the Earth slightly warmer during this period and also makes winter the shortest season in the north at just short of 89 days.

In the northern hemisphere, meteorologists, and most lay people, consider the months of December, January, and February, to be the winter months, even though they do not exactly coincide with the astronomical calculation of winter, which begins about 21 or 22 December. In the southern hemisphere the winter months are thought to be June, July, and August.

Winter kicks off on a high note beginning with Christmas and New Years. Other commonly celebrated holidays of winter include Valentine's Day and President's Day (in the US). This season is marked by snow, and has both peaceful and sinister characteristics. In literature it is often portrayed as bitter, harsh, windy, and even deadly. Yet other authors see it as peaceful and quiet, a time for reflection and rest bordering on hibernation. Winter poetry abounds with "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening", by Robert Frost, and "Twas the Night Before Christmas", by Clement Moore among the most familiar.

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