On Friday in Anchorage, Alaska, the sun will rise at 10:14 a.m. and set a mere 5 hours and 27 minutes later at 3:42 p.m.
Alaskans are by now as accustomed to the extensive, late December darkness as human beings can become. And twilight in the state's population center will certainly not be as dramatic as, say, Barrow -- where the sun won't rise at all. Residents of America's northernmost community haven't seen the sunlight's twinkle since mid November and don't expect to, again, until late January. And even that hinges on how literal the Mayans took the "end of the calendar."
Any way you slice it, winter solstice will deliver the longest night of the year (18 hours and 33 minutes) for Anchorage, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Read more about Alaska's daylight hours -- which vary from 6 hours and 30 minutes in Juneau to just 1 hour of daylight in Kotzebue, north of the Arctic Circle -- in your neck of Alaska's woods, too.
But 12/21/12 also triggers our six-month march toward the midnight sunshine of mid June across Alaska. So why not pay tribute to the dark, quiet time at any one of the following festivities in honor of winter solstice? After all, brighter days will be coming fast.
Anchorage winter solstice events
• Dec. 21: An End of Days Fun Run will start at the University of Alaska Anchorage's Professional Studies Building at 10 a.m. The event will celebrate the Mayan Calendar's predicted end of the world with a 5K and half-marathon races. Read more.
• Dec. 21: Anchorage Outdoor Family Network is hosting an outing at 6:30 p.m. at Campbell Tract (Smoker Jumpers Trailhead, 6881 Abbott Loop Rd.) open to hikers, walkers, skiers, etc. The group plans to meet at the first parking lot off Elmore Road. Bring headlamps, flashlights or lanterns and, of course, kids and pets. The trail is easy and should be fun for everyone. Event lasts until 8 p.m. Read more.
• Dec. 21: End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse Party beginning at 9 p.m. to honor the Mayan end-of-days prediction is at The Avenue Bar (338 W. Fourth Ave.). Machinecorpse, Decepticide, City In Ashes, & Glass Halo will play for your dancing pleasure. Read more.
• Dec. 22: Potluck and Silent Auction: Anchorage Adventurers Meetup Group is hosting a gathering beginning 4:30 p.m. at the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (3201 Turnagain St.). Also includes an Artisan's Guild booth workshops and a silent auction. Runs until 8:30 p.m. Read more.
• Dec. 22: Zombie Dance Party: If we make it through the end of days in one piece than Taproot Public House (3300 Spenard Rd.) plans on throwing a big ol fat post-apocalyptic zombie dance party. The line-up will be worth all that fire and brimstone and includes SJ and Drums, Starship Amazing, The Modern Savages and DJ Alex the Lion. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Read more.
Mat-Su winter solstice celebrations
• Dec. 21: Solstice Christmas Party: Palmer Elk's Lodge #1842 (2600 N Barry Resort Dr. in Wasilla) is hosting a party beginning with a 6 p.m. dinner and a party, complete with karaoke, ice skating, games and more, at 8 p.m. Read more.
New beginnings on the Kenai Peninsula
• Dec. 21: Solstice New Beginnings: A food and drink potluck-style gathering will be hosted by the Art Barn at the Cedar Cabin on East End Rd. (1044 East End Rd.) from 6 p.m. to midnight. There will be music, chanting, gentle yoga, outdoor fire gathering, interactive art, dancing, quite contemplation and joyful celebration. Read more.
• Dec. 21: End of the World Party 2012: The Down East Saloon (59909 East End Road) will feature live music and a Chinese lantern ceremony for new beginnings in recognition of the end of days. Festivities begin at 9 p.m., with the lantern ceremony at midnight. Read more.
Rock out in the sub-zero darkness of Interior Alaska
• Dec. 21: 2012 Winter Solstice Festival in downtown Fairbanks, runs 5-8 p.m. with "live music by traveling bands and carolers on the streets and in shops throughout the night," according to their Facebook event page. Event goers can expect Cocoa the Reindeer, a luminary lighting ceremony, a Relay for Life and Mrs. Claus (she always bring gifts!). Read more.
• Dec. 21: Blue Loon's Winter Solstice and End of the World Rock Party: Bands Rivers of Mercury, 12 Year Stretch and Lucid will be onstage starting 9.30 p.m. Read more.
• Dec. 21-22: Party at the Chatanika Lodge: According to Explore Fairbanks, the "party on the 21st at the lodge north of Fairbanks is geared toward children with disabilities. Kids 11 and under get a present and there's a free buffet for every child." Santa arrives at 6:30 p.m. each night. Christmas carols and music by Theresa Bauer 4-6 p.m. Buffet starts 5:30 p.m. Welcome to all ages. Read more.
• Dec. 21: Dance to Bring Back the Sun: Ballroom Dance Club of Fairbanks hosts a solstice party at the the Pioneer Park Dance Hall (map). No experience or partner necessary, but bring clean, non-marking shoes and a few bucks. $5 for members, $6 for others. Read more.
• Dec 22: Solstice Walk, 1-3 p.m. at Creamer's Field (1300 College Rd.). Read more.
Southeast lights up the night
• Dec. 21: The Mendenhall Flying Lions club and Coastal Helicopters present "Christmas Light Night Flights." For a donation of $30 per person viewers will get a festive aerial view of Alaska's capitol city. Flights start at 4:30 p.m. on a first come first serve basis. Take off is at the Juneau International Airport. Read more.
Read more about the science of winter solstice.