A look at the traditions of the Winter Solstice.

What is the Winter Solstice?

The 21st of December marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, giving us the shortest day and longest night of the year; the sun will set at 15:53 in the afternoon, announcing the official start of winter. The word solstice comes from the Latin solstitium, sol meaning ‘sun’, and stitium meaning ‘stoppage’. From this point on, the sun appears to begin moving north again, meaning the nights will become shorter and days longer, until the Summer Equinox in June.

There are many different interpretations and celebrations around the Winter Solstice. To many people, it is simply a reason the celebrate the cycle of nature, and something to look forward to in the otherwise cold and dark of winter. However, there are also many different historical and spiritual observations around the day.

It is believed by many people that December 25th was chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus to overcome Pagan festivals. Christmas is now commonly referred to as Yule, which is thought to have come from the Norse word jól, the winter solstice festival for celebrating the rebirth of the Sun God, which usually lasted 12 days. The tradition of the Yule or Juul log comes from Scandinavian tradition of lighting fires to symbolise the light and heat of the sun and to honour the Scandinavian God Thor.

Celebrate the Winter Solstice

Nowadays, the celebrations of the Winter Solstice and Yule have are usually combined with those for Christmas. However, here are a few ideas for if you would like to hold a mini celebration of your own;

Create a Winter Solstice Altar
Set up a little space to showcase what winter means to you. Create your own mini Yule log with candles, decorate with holly and mistletoe, and whatever else you believe symbolises the time for you. Take some time to pray and be thankful for the Sun Gods and the continuing cycle of nature.

Go for a walk
It’s a time to celebrate the joy of nature, and there’s no better way than getting out there and enjoying nature itself. Wrap up warm and visit the local park or forest, and appreciate your surroundings. Find your own Yule log to burn in your fire, or a smaller one for your altar.

Visit Stonehenge
There is an annual celebration at Stonehenge every year to celebrate the Winter Solstice, with hundreds of people turning up to mark the day.

Have a Yule Feast
Celebrate the changing of the seasons by having a feast. Create a meal using seasonal vegetables such as leeks, parsnips, turnips, sprouts and potatoes. Invite loved ones, and use it as a time to reflect on the past year. 

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