Happy Winter Solstice everyone.
Today marks the shortest day of the year for us here in the Northern Hemisphere as well as the start of winter. The solstice is the moment when the Earth’s poles are at their maximum tilt. When the winter solstice occurs, the sun travels its shortest path through the sky.
The Meaning of Solstice
The term solstice is derived from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand”. So solstices are days when the sun reaches its farthest northern and southern declinations. The Winter Solstice, also known as the pagan festival of Yule, marks the mid-point of winter and brings the promise of new beginnings as we move out of the darkness and into increasingly lighter, warmer days. It signals the return of light after the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. As from this day forward a new cycle begins of increasing daylight as the sun begins its journey Northward, each day becoming a little bit lighter.
Celebrated Around the World
All around the world the winter solstice has inspired rituals and celebrations throughout history. Here are a few examples of how the Winter Solstice is celebrated around the world:
- In Scandinavia they celebrate Saint Lucia Day on December 13. This celebration marks the start of the Christmas season with a procession of young women in white robes, red sashes, and wreaths of candles on their heads to symbolize lighting the way through the darkness of winter.
- The ancient Persian festival of Shab-e Yalda in Iran also celebrates the end of shorter days and the victory of light over darkness. Yalda, which means “birth,” is celebrated with family gatherings, candles, poetry readings, and a feast. Ancient legend says that eating the fruits of summer will protect you from illness in winter.
- At Stonehenge in England people will celebrate by gathering before dawn after the longest night to watch the sunrise through one of the stones. It also serves as a global monument for the summer solstice as well.
- In China Dongzhi is celebrated on either December 21, 22 or 23. With family gatherings and a big meal, including rice balls called tang yuan. This festival has occurred for thousands of years and is the marking of the end of the harvest season. It also has roots in the Chinese concept of yin and yang. As we head toward a balance between the dark and the light.
- Vancouver, Canada is preparing for its 28th annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. Created by Vancouver’s Secret Lantern Society, the festival is celebrated with lantern creation workshops and culminates in a procession through the city followed by fire performances. There is also a maze of 600 candles called the Labyrinth of Light, which encourages the letting go of old thoughts, and finding new possibilities for the coming year.
Enjoy your magical day today.