Winter solstice: Winter officially begins today as we celebrate the winter solstice. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, winter solstice marks the longest day and the shortest night of the year, while the Southern Hemisphere experiences the shortest day and longest night.

Because the Earth’s orbit is tilted on its axis by 23 ½ degrees, during the December solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, which causes the beginning of winter.

Even the earliest people on Earth recognized the shift in the sun’s path across the sky, the amount of daylight and location of sunrise and sunset. They built monuments such as Stonehenge in England and Machu Picchu in Peru to track the sun’s yearly progress. In fact, Stonehenge is aligned to the sunset on the winter solstice.

No matter where you live, the December solstice is celebrated at a specific brief moment all over the world. In 2019, this time is 4:19 a.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Dec. 22, which for us translates to 11:19 p.m. EST tonight.

Christmas store: Ed Anderson of Concord N.C. commented on the recent ‘Round the Square on America’s First Christmas Store in Smethport. Growing up in Smethport in the 50s and 60s, he said he doesn’t believe Leonard Johnson expanded into the store next door in 1935, as the store next door on the corner of Mechanic and Main was Masser Hardware, run by Herbert Larson.

“Masser’s didn’t go out of business until sometime in the early 60s. Leonard did move into that store and had a great business for many years,” recalled Anderson.

Anderson described Johnson as a “very interesting and unique person” who “always was willing to talk about anything and everything.

“After the Lovell’s bought the store they expanded into the building west of the original pharmacy and Masser Hardware store,” Anderson said.

Anderson said his father, George Anderson, ran Anderson Jewelry store at 225 E. Main St. from 1947 until 1978.