For some the start of winter is when the heating goes on, for others when there’s the first frost and the car needs de-icing.

Even though people have their own barometers of wintertime, the actual start of winter is on one of two dates – depending on which group of people you ask.

So what’s the difference and when are the dates?

Meteorological winter

Weather – Winter Snowfall – Tegg’s Nose Reservoir, Langley
(Lynne Cameron/PA)

As well as the date for opening the first door on an advent calendar, December 1 marks the start of meteorological winter.

Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge told the Press Association: “It is based on the need for meteorologists to have the year broken up into four equal seasons of three months each.

“This quartering of the year allows meteorologists to compare directly seasonal variation from year to year with scientific consistency.

“The day-to-day natural variation in weather means that people are unlikely to notice the actual transition point from one season to another.”

In other words, there’s no distinct difference between November 30 and December 1 or the last day of winter on February 28 and the first day of spring. However, there’s a measurable difference in the data from the complete period of winter compared with autumn or spring.

Astronomical winter

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge
(Ben Birchall/PA)

Astronomical winter begins on December 21.

Madge said: “The astronomical start of winter coincides with the period when areas above the Arctic Circle experience constant darkness: this occurs because of the Earth’s tilt.”

This date is often referred to as the winter solstice because it is the shortest day of the year.

Burning of the Clocks Festival 2016
Burning The Clocks festival on the winter solstice in Brighton (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Celebrations take place at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to mark the date, while in Brighton people parade lanterns through the streets at Burning The Clocks.

Astronomical winter comes to a close on March 20.

A poll, commissioned by wood-burning stove brand Contura, asked people when they thought winter started. Some 30% thought it began on November 1.

Others had their own measures for the start of winter – from hearing Christmas songs on the radio to the clocks going back, Bonfire Night, and even the screening of the John Lewis advert.