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Observatory marks 2009 winter solstice

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Naval Observatory said Monday is the winter solstice of 2009, the year's shortest day and longest night.

FOX News said the winter solstice takes place in the Northern Hemisphere each year when the sun is directly above the Tropic of Capricorn and the annual event is celebrated in different ways among the world's various cultures.

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George Washington University professor of religion Harry Yeide said the winter solstice also has connections with Christmas based on past celebrations.

"As the Christmas celebration moved west (from the early church)," Yeide said, "the date that had traditionally been used to celebrate the winter solstice became sort of available for conversion to the observance of Christmas. In the Western church the December date became the date for Christmas."

Monday also is the first day of winter and the remaining days of the year will get longer as 2009 comes to an end, FOX News said.

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