The Winter Solstice marks the official beginning of Winter, it also happens to be the longest night and shortest day of the year. In fact there happens to be less then 12 hours of sunlight! This astronomical phenomenon is caused by the Earth tilting in its furthest position from the sun causing the least amount of light to reach us.
For most of history cultures all across the world celebrated this day in different ways. It is a celebration of the sun’s rebirth and moving towards the summer solstice, despite it being the darkest day of the year.
This year we had our first Winter Solstice Celebration with Creatures in the Wild! Despite the super cold temperatures, snow and crazy ice on the driveway we had a great little gathering. We had some treats, did a winter spiral ceremony, talked about the history of solstice and read a book about keeping hope for the warmer days. But if you were unable to come I wrote this handy guide so that you can celebrate at home!
“Solstice” comes from two Latin words, sol meaning "sun" and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky.
Many cultures all across the world have celebrated Winter Solstice going way back in history. Before modern science most people thought that for the 12 days surrounding the solstice the sun actually stood still! They would have long festivals during this time thinking it would help encourage the sun to start moving again.
Now in modern times it is important to celebrate the winter solstice so that we take the time to take a break from our usual busy lives, stop and look around at the natural world. See how different everything is during this time of year. Go outside and watch the world stand still, notice how different everything is compared to the summer when we were all outside way more often. Once you do this you can understand why our ancestors believed that the sun had stopped moving and needed some encouragement. No plants are growing, many animals have either migrated south or are hibernating out of sight. It is cold and white and the sun does not last long. Good thing we know that it is just the tilt of the earth that causes this! Tomorrow we will celebrate the Winter Solstice and the fact that after it the days will be getting longer and the nights shorter. We no longer need to encourage the sun to start moving again, we just need to keep hope for those beautiful spring days when everything starts growing and we can take our coats off!
Here are some ways to celebrate Winter Solstice at home:
-make bird feeders to help the local birds through winter
-make solstice bread (recipe here)
-hang dried orange slices around the house to represent the sun
-light candles all over the house and let them burn down
-decorate the house with evergreen boughs, and pine cones
-hang real mistletoe and let it dry there until next year for good luck
-go for a walk through nature to observe how things have changed since summer
-draw pictures of how beautiful the winter can be in a nature journal
Happy Solstice Everyone!