The Winter Solstice occurs on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, and it marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. For many, the solstice is another day that falls within the holiday season, mixed with Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and Immaculate Conception Day (to name a few). But its special nature dates back millennia, for as long as mankind has noted the change of the seasons.

Throughout history, people worldwide have thrown festive feasts and parties around the Winter Solstice (or Yule), turning up the heat with fire and light as symbols of hope during the darkest time of the year. The Winter Solstice marks the juncture when the sun's path in the sky reaches its southernmost point. In the Northern Hemisphere, this occurs between December 20th and 23rd, ushering in the shortest day of the year, with the least sunlight and the longest night.

Amid the serene darkness of winter, the solstice has been revered as a promise of brighter days to come. It's a pivotal moment, a brief pause when the seasonal equilibrium shifts toward the light.

Humans, since ancient times, have recognized and celebrated this turning point, viewing the long night as a herald of renewed life and the return of warmth. As a result, it gave our ancestors a reason to throw on some extra layers and cozy up with mammoth-sized hot cocoa mugs. Ancient monuments like Newgrange in Ireland and Maeshowe in Scotland were like the Stone Age's version of the ultimate sunrise sightseeing spot, perfectly aligned with the winter solstice dawn. Some archaeologists believe these spots were used for traditional rituals, where people tried to capture the fleeting sunlight on the shortest day of the year as a herald of renewed life and the return of warmth.

While contemporary focus tends to center around Christmas celebrations during this period, there's a rich internal landscape to explore at this midwinter juncture. The quiet significance of this season offers profound connection and grounding, making it well worth setting aside some time each year to delve into its treasures if we can.

Here are some customary ways people celebrate this magical day:

Lighting Candles: Since the Winter Solstice is all about embracing the return of light, lighting candles is a symbolic and widespread tradition. Some even use a special candle, often called the “Solstice Candle,’ which is lit at sunset and burned throughout the night. Some embrace the idea of bonfires (although a home fire pit works equally well) along with fire ceremonies. Lighting bonfires or candles ceremonially symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness.

Feasting: Gathering with friends and family for a festive meal is a classic way to celebrate (and who doesn’t lie to eat with family of friends). Many choose to include seasonal and locally sourced foods to honor the connection to nature.

Reflecting and Setting Intentions: The solstice is an excellent time for meditation and personal reflection. People often take a moment to look back on the past year, express gratitude, and set intentions for the coming months.

Decorating with Evergreens: Evergreen plants, such as holly, mistletoe, and pine, are often used as decorations during the Winter Solstice. Their greenery symbolizes life and the promise of renewal.

Creating Nature Crafts: Engaging in creative activities with natural materials, such as making wreaths, ornaments, or even bird feeders, is a hands-on way to celebrate the season.

Attending Festivals and Gatherings: Many communities host festivals or gatherings centered around the Winter Solstice. These events often include music, dance, and other performances.

Yule Logs: Burning a Yule log is a tradition in some cultures. The log, often decorated with festive symbols, is burned in the fireplace to bring warmth and light into the home.

Welcoming the Sunrise: Some people choose to mark the solstice by witnessing the sunrise on the day itself. This simple yet profound act connects individuals with the natural rhythms of the Earth.

Giving Back: In the spirit of goodwill and community, some choose to celebrate the Winter Solstice by engaging in acts of kindness or contributing to charitable causes.

Remember, these customs can vary across cultures and personal beliefs, so feel free to adapt and create your own meaningful traditions to celebrate the Winter Solstice. You can find a lot of associated gifts that are tied to the season in our Solstice collection. The quiet significance of this season offers profound connection and grounding, making it well worth setting aside some time each year to delve into its treasures if we can.

 While the contemporary focus tends to center around Christmas celebrations during this period, as we hustle through family visits, gift-buying, and the monumental food shop, there's a rich internal landscape to explore at this midwinter juncture. Whether you celebrate this magical day by yourself or with friends, welcome in the upcoming year with love and gratitude in your heart.

See our Solstice collection for gift ideas tied to the season.

 

Image courtesy aymane jdidi from Pixabay

December 14, 2023 — Denise Welling