(CNN) – For six months now the days have grown shorter and the nights have grown longer in the northern hemisphere – but it's about to turn around.
Solstice this year will be extra special because it will be followed the next day by a full moon known as Cold Moon and you may see a meteor shower to start.
First, CNN meteorologists Dave Hennen, Judson Jones and Brandon Miller help us understand the science of solar arts.
The science behind a winter solstice
When does it happen exactly?
Solstice usually takes place on 21 December. The time when sunshine occurs and the day itself can change because the solar year (the time it takes for the sun to reappear in the same place as seen from Earth) does not exactly match our calendar year.
What causes winter solstice to happen by yourself?
Because Earth is tilted on its axis of rotation, we experience seasons here on Earth. When the Earth moves around the sun, every hemisphere experiences winter when it is poured away from the sun and summer when it slopes toward the sun.
Wait. Why is the earth tilted?
Scientists are not entirely sure how this happened, but they think that the earth decades ago when the solar system took shape were subjected to violent collisions that had the axis to tilt.
What other seasonal transitions do we mark?
The equinoxes, both spring and autumn, mark when the sun's rays are directly above the equator, where we have the same length day and night. Summer solstice is when the sun's rays are furthest north over the Cancer Trope, giving us our longest day and summer in the northern hemisphere.
So what's going on with this full moon?
But when you look out on a clear sky on Friday night, the moon will appear fully for you – and could be so bright that people with a fair view could read it.
If you wonder how special this Cold Moon is so close to the solar arts, it will be 2029 before it happens again. So it's not once in a lifetime, but you do not see it too often.
What about the meteor shower?
One warning: The cold moon will be so bright that it can exceed some of the meteors when they strike, making them harder to spot.
Winter solstice traditions and festivities
It is not surprising that many cultures and religions celebrate a holiday – whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or heathen festivals – it coincides with the return of the sun and the coming days.
Old peoples, whose survival was dependent on precise knowledge of season cycles, marked this first winter day with extensive ceremonies and celebrations. Spiritually, these celebrations symbolize the possibility of renewal, a repulsion of old habits and negative feelings and a caring hope in the midst of darkness as the days begin to grow longer.
Many of the ancient symbols and ceremonies of the sun are alive today. Here are five extraordinary places to experience something magical in the winter's merciless long night:
UNITED KINGDOM: Cornwall and Stonehenge
Early this week, participate in caroling and other events. At the solstice, referred to here as Montol Eve, get your dance card ready for Guise, a community dance where people dress in masks and other "topsy-turvy" aprons based on a 19th century tradition of rich dressing in rags while poor Citizens performed a "mock posh" look.
You can also make your finery for torch-shaped processions. Merrymaking continues only when revelers spread to pubs around the city.
The trip from Penzance to Stonehenge takes less than four hours by car, making it possible to stay on December 20 in Salisbury, the closest town to Stonehenge and rise before dawn to the ceremony among the rocks.
SWEDEN: Santa Lucia, Yule and Aurora Borealis
Sweden is rich with solstice traditions. Elements of the Yule, Northern Europe's old winter solstice party, is also incorporated in modern festivities, including gathering around fire, celebration, drinking and telling stories.
Another is the little village of Jukkasjärvi, where you can stay at ICEHOTEL, which gives local guides to help you spot the lights. Bump together and take a dog sled or snow-mobile trip, when sleep in front of a burning fire with a steamy cup of glow.
MEXICO: Land of Maya
Chichen Itza is a two and a half hour drive from Cancun. If you plan to take a tour, choose tour operators who work with local Maya communities and use expert guides.
INDIA: Makar Sankranti and kite festivals
Basically, it's a celebration of the sun's journey towards the northern hemisphere which brings longer days and end of winter, which will allow a good fall. But Makar Sankranti is also associated with many other themes, including strong family relationships and a renewed opportunity to get rid of negativity and embrace a better way of living.
Different regions have different names for the festival and celebrate in many different ways, which usually involve boobs, party, song and prayer. It is a day when pilgrims make their way to the holy river Ganges for a spiritual cleansing.
Another popular event for Makar Sankranti is kite festivals, now held in cities throughout India. Jaipur, Mumbai and Ahmedabad host some of the most famous festivals. Kite makers sell their goods on public markets in the days leading up to the festival, and soon the sky is filled with colorful, extensive dragons flown from balconies, stadiums, parks and beaches.
CANADA: Lantern festival in Vancouver
Staging areas for the main events include Granville Island and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classic Chinese Garden. Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Center features African, Gypsy and First Nations dance and music ranging from traditional solstice songs to jazz.
Here is one of the best parts: Before sunset, neighborhoods throughout Vancouver provide lantern workshops. For a relatively small price, you can construct and decorate your own lantern to participate in one of several processions throughout the city on December 21, leading to indoor places for music, dance and art production.
This article combines material from two previous CNN Travel stories and updates them for 2018.