Winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied across cultures, but many have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time. The day of the winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
Although winter is the season of dormancy, darkness and cold, the winter Solstice marks the “turning of the Sun” and the days slowly get longer. Celebrations of the lighter days to come and nature’s continuing cycle have been common throughout cultures and history with feasts, festivals and holidays around the winter Solstice. A lot of the traditions have become common when celebrating Christmas.
Components of a Winter Solstice Celebration
- purchase a wreath or make a wreath from evergreens collected by family members.
- have family members gather around the wreath and consider it as a symbol of cycles of Nature; mention Yule and Jul, names for Winter Solstice time (and Christmas) mean wheel.
- have family members each share something they appreciate about Winter
- put the wreath in a visible location, such as on the front door, on an inside wall, or in the center of the dining table.
- On or after New Year’s Day, wreath can be returned to Nature, or kept until Summer Solstice and then burned in a bonfire.
- Prepare favorite family foods and beverages.
- Before beginning the dining experience, do a family prayer of thanksgiving.
- End the feast with a cake or pie with a sun image on it.
An oak log, plus a fireplace or bonfire area is needed for this form of celebration. The oak log should be very dry so that it will blaze well. It can be decorated with burnable red ribbons of natural fiber and dried holly leaves. In the fireplace or bonfire area, dried kindling should be set to facilitate the burning of the log.
Decorate an evergreen tree as a Yule tree. Most people know this just as a Christmas Tree The tree can be a living tree growing in the yard of the home or in a container indoors to be planted outside in Spring. Or, the tree can be a harvested one purchased or cut yourself from a tree farm.
Across many cultures for at least several thousand years, gifts have been exchanged among family and friends at Solstice time. Even if the family already has a tradition of exchanging gifts at Christmas or Epiphany, some gifts can be exchanged on Solstice as well. Having gift giving occur over a period of time extends the holiday celebration and is a time honored tradition, as commemorated in the song “Twelve Days of Christmas.”