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What is the Meaning of the Winter Solstice?

Updated on December 18, 2012
Celebration of Winter Solstice at Stonehenge
Celebration of Winter Solstice at Stonehenge | Source

What is the Winter Solstice?

The word "solstice" is derived from two Latin words: sol ("sun) and sistere ("to stand still"). So, basically, the solstice is the time when the sun stands still. Speaking in astronomical terms, solstice is the time, when sun reaches its highest (summer solstice) and lowest (winter solstice) point in the sky. During the winter solstice we have the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Winter solstice usually occurs on December 21 to 23 in the Northern Hemisphere and on June 20 to 23 in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Spiritual Meaning of Winter Solstice

The winter solstice was always one of the greatest events on the calendar cycle. This event had deep spiritual meanings in many cultures. In many cases, Winter Solstice was associated with the birth of the Sun. And the birth of the sun meant the birth of the god or goddess. It must be said, that all Christian world still celebrates Winter Solstice as the Birth of their God's son Jesus.

The celebration of Winter Solstice can be called in many names, but the idea is the same. In ancient Egypt people celebrated the birth of Horus, in ancient Rome it was the birth of unconquered Sun, it was called Yule in ancient Europe. Ancient Persia celebrated the birth of Mithra, in ancient Mexico it was feathered serpent.

It seems, that all ancient cultures had similar spiritual meaning for Winter Solstice. This means that all cultures had almost the same interpretation of this astronomical event. This means, that humanity always cared about the rebirth of light.

Fire symbolize the Sun
Fire symbolize the Sun | Source

How to Celebrate Winter Solstice

As far as Christianity came from Europe, an old Celtic celebration, called Yule influenced Christmas rituals much. Sometimes it seems that the old Christmas traditions are lost in commercialisms. That is why people try to explore the ancient roots of this celebration. Buying gifts should not be the main goal of this celebration.

Winter solstice appears on 21st - 23th of December depending on astronomical conditions. Simply speaking, in many cultures it has meaning of rebirth of God. In Christianity it is rebirth of Christ while in other cultures it is rebirth of the Sun God. The God of Sun was important in various cultures, because sun influences human life much. It gives warmth, and its warmth gives life. Spiritually speaking, the rebirth of sun is rebirth of our hope and goodwill.

Celebrating Winter Solstice can bring back the spirituality to Christmas celebration. The old celebration of Yule in Celtic culture focused on family togetherness and the union of people. Buying gifts is not the key point of this celebration.

Here are some tips that can be done on Yule or Christmas to bring back the real ancient meaning of this celebration.

  • Stop buying gifts. Instead of that, spend some time with your family. Instead of the gifts you can do something together.
  • Feel the nature around you. Decorate your home with natural decorations. Pine cones, ivy, mistletoe is a great solution. Take a nature walk. Visit the nearest forest. Feel the nature around you. It can be a great time for whole family to take a nature trip and spend some time together. Do not harm the nature. Cutting down Christmas trees is a bad solution. This brings harm to nature. Instead of that, pick some wings or other decorations that are already fallen to the ground. Remember that the nature is our home and it needs care.
  • Spend some time near fire. Fire brings the warmth and the light of the Sun. Spend a great evening with family near the fireplace. Make it a story evening. Remember the great moments spent together. Tell the ancient stories and legend. Let every member of family to tell something. Say farewell to the old year.

Remember once again, that this celebration should not be commercialized. It is a family celebration. The celebration of hope and rebirth of light. Spend some nice and warm Yule evening together, and strengthen your family ties. I believe that you will not argue me, that family ties are important to everybody.


Submit a Comment
  • Silwen profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Europe

    Thank you Gail. The relation between Christmas and winter solstice is as old as the Christianity. It is not a secret, that new religions usually absorb many things from traditional (it may be called pagan, but I do not like this term) religion. It is much more easier to spread a new religion, when it has something common with traditional beliefs. The Sun's cult was strong in Europe, Asia and Africa, the returning (birth) of the Sun, was a great celebration. Christianity interpreted thin in its own way: the birth of Christ (the returning of hope, spirituality and all good things).

  • Gail Meyers profile image

    Gail Meyers 

    7 years ago from Johnson County, Kansas

    That's interesting, Silwen. I have personally never really related Christmas to the winter solace, so I enjoy reading your perspective. Nice hub!


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