The Winter Solstice is Thursday, Dec 21, 2023, 7:27 PM PST in the Northern Hemisphere.
The winter solstice marks the beginning of the season of winter.
The word “solstice” comes from the Latin solstitium—from sol (Sun) and stitium (still or stopped). The Sun reaches its lowest point in the southern sky and the Sun’s path does not change for a brief period.
It will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.
The Sun does not rise exactly in the east, but instead rises just south of east and it sets south of west. During this time the sun takes slightly longer to set.
South of the Equator, this same moment marks the unofficial beginning of summer.
On December 21, in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth tilts the farthest away from the Sun and will have about 7 hours and 14 minutes of daylight, marking the shortest day of the year and longest night.
During this time, the Sun appears lowest in the sky,
It is the start of the gradual increase in daylight, which increases to 9 hours and 15 minutes by New Year's Day. By mid-January, the increase jumps to about two minutes a day. By February 20, daylight speeds up to three minutes per day!
The solstice is historically linked to themes such as rebirth, renewal, and the return of the light. As days start to grow longer again, it is often seen as a time of new beginnings and the ever-changing cycles of nature and life.
Some historical winter solstice traditions around the world are:
Saturnalia is an ancient Roman pagan festival honoring the God of agriculture, Saturn. What started out as a 1-day celebration later became an 8-day party of fun indulging in feasts, drinking, and gift giving. Traditions included wreaths and candles... Sounds like our Christmas traditions.
Dong Zhi, which means Winter arrives, is a Chinese celebration of the winter solstice. It signifies positive energy in the year to come with the return of longer days.
Shab-e Yalda (which translates to “Night of Birth”), is when Iranians all over the world celebrate the triumph of Mithra, the Sun God, over darkness. People would gather together to protect each other from evil, burning fires, doing charitable acts, feasting, and reading poetry. Some would stay awake all night to see the sunrise and rejoice in the arrival of goodness.
Toji is a traditional practice in Japan, centered around starting the new year with health and good luck. People light bonfires to encourage the sun’s return; huge bonfires burn on Mount Fuji each year during the Winter Solstice.
Stonehenge was built to align with the sun on the solstices. On the winter solstice, the sun sets to the south-west of the stone circle. Large feasts were held to welcome back the sun for longer days.
Winter Solstice celebrations, at Stonehenge, take place at sunrise every year.
Yule: This Norse tradition involves bringing home large logs and feasting while the logs burn, which can take up to 12 days.
Wow, that's a lot of eating...
Something that you can do to celebrate is at dusk light up the dark with candles, lanterns, or strings of lights on Thursday, December 21.
Reflect on the year past and set new intentions for the season ahead.