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Winter Solstice

Updated on December 21, 2018

Winter Solstice Celebration

Why do people celebrate the winter solstice? This celebration honors the end of the harvest and the return to "hearth and home." In agricultural societies and the practice of Feng Shui, winter is associated with completion, storage and conservation of energy, until springtime arrives with the promise of a new beginning.

The solstice marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere bringing the shortest day - and the longest night - of the year. "The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. Hence the origin of the word solstice, which comes from Latin solstitium, from sol, "sun" and -stitium, "a stoppage."

Following the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter. It's the beginning of new life...celebrate the return of the light.

Celtic Sun Wheel Necklace

Eastgate Celtic Sun Wheel Necklace
Eastgate Celtic Sun Wheel Necklace

This charm will make a great Solstice Gift. This is the ancient universal symbol, the Triskelion, set among three spirals of continual motion. When worn, it stands for optimism and progress.


When Is Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice occurs on December 21.

Do You Celebrate the Solstice?

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Please leave all other comments in the guestbook at the end of this page.

How Do You Celebrate The Solstice?

patinkc: Sounds like fun!

Evelyn Saenz: We like to dip candles and sing songs about the Winter Solstice. Then we burn the candles while looking forward to the return of longer days.

patinkc: I agree!

Wednesday-Elf: I agree with mihgasper - knowing the Winter Solstice has arrived means the following days will become longer.... eventually ending 'winter', my least favorite season! :)

Edutopia: I'm fairly close to the equatorial region so the solstice doesn't mean too much change for me but I'm always ready to party so my friends and I have taken to blocking off some time to catch up and socialize every solstice.

Miha Gasper: Don't celebrate it but have good feeling when it is over because days will become longer and the sun will bring more joy in out environment.

Pat: ellagis, I so agree!!

Pat: I like this custom just because I like dumplings!

ellagis: I started celebrating it since when I moved to Denmark. When the winter solstice comes, you really feel you need more light, and youre fed up of cold and darkness! So, I light some extra candles, just to "welcome" light to come back.

scar4: We eat dumplings on the day of winter solstice to protect our ears from frostbiting in this cold season. That's an interesting custom in China.

mirichandler: We have never celebrated it before but we are thinking of starting our own traditions.

Pat: Evelyn, dipping candles sounds like a fun way to acknowledge the Long Night!

Evelyn Saenz: We dip candles and then light them as it gets dark. We sing songs about the Winter Solstice and tell tales about encouraging the sun to come back.

Pat: LadyJasmine, thanks for sharing the way you celebrate!

Pat: GeoDitton, sounds like fun!

Pat: AT, thanks for letting me know. Hopefully I have it correct now.

anonymous: Your web-site erroneously states the following when referring to The Winter Solstice: "This is the shortest day of the year; night and day have equal hours".The Winter Solstice is no such thing. Night and day do not have equal hours till the March Equinox. Please inquire about this and make your corrections. FYI: An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun. The day and night have equal time. FYI:During The Winter Solstice, the Night is Longer and the Day is Shorter.Thank You!!!!

GeoDitton: Don't normally celebrate it but my parents live in Salisbury just outside Stonehenge visited the summer solstice for the first time this year & depending on the weather i might consider going to stonehenge for the winter one this year too.

LadyJasmine LM: I'm pagan. I celebrate it in much the same way as my friends of other religions, I come together with loved ones, have feasts, bring a tree into the house, give presents, and focus on the idea of the light coming into the world. :-)

anonymous: My husband and I decided, since we're not christian, or religious in any way, and we do not support commercialism, that we would rather observe the Winter Solstice, and celebrate the return of light to our world, with our children. We're celebrating the winter solstice this year for the first time!

anonymous: We used to celebrate solstice with egg nog and a good D&D game.

Winter Soltice Extreme of Winter

The Winter Soltice “extreme of winter” holiday honors the end of the harvest and the return to hearth and home. In agricultural societies and the practice of Feng Shui, winter is associated with completion, storage and conservation of energy, until springtime arrives with the promise of a new beginning.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, in the sense that the length of time elapsed between sunrise and sunset on this day is a minimum for the year.

The bringing in of the green has been a winter solstice custom across the centuries, faiths and traditions. The druids used evergreens, as symbols of everlasting life, brought indoors at this time of year.

The most yin time of year from a Feng Shui perspective, winter is associated with still water, cold, the moon, silence and darkness.

The Pagan Celebration of Yule

Longest Night of the Year

"The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world.

Ancient people were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word yule is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.

The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents.(

Before Christianity came to the British Isles the Winter Solstice was held on the shortest day of the year (21st December). The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.

It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year.

Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas."


Stonehenge at sunrise.
Stonehenge at sunrise. | Source

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge at Sunrise

A solstice calendar of surprising accuracy, Stonehenge dates back almost 5,000 years.

Winter Solstice at Newgrange

On the 21st December each year a beam of sunlight shines up the passageway to light the central chamber of Newgrange. These are images taken during several visits at this time to the music titled Newgrange by Clannad.

The Winter Solstice Illumination of Newgrange

At dawn on Winter Solstice every year, just after 9am, the sun begins to rise across the Boyne Valley from Newgrange over a hill known locally as Red Mountain. Given the right weather conditions, the event is spectacular. Click the link to read more and to see the photos.

The bringing in of the green has been a winter solstice custom across the centuries, faiths and traditions. The ancient Egyptians brought green palm leaves into their homes to welcome the return of Ra, the sun god.

The Temple of Kukulkan, the Feathered Serpent God at Chichen Itza - Very popular place to celebrate the Solstice

Kukulkan El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Feathered serpent sculpture at the base of one of the stairways of El Castillo
Kukulkan El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Feathered serpent sculpture at the base of one of the stairways of El Castillo | Source

Chichen Itza

The Temple of Kukulkan, the Feathered Serpent God (also known as Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs) is the largest and most important ceremonial structure at Chichen Itza.

The architecture of the pyramid encodes precise information regarding the Mayan calendar. Each face of the four-sided structure has a stairway with ninety-one steps, which together with the shared step of the platform at the top, add up to 365, the number of days in a year. These stairways also divide the nine terraces of each side of the pyramid into eighteen segments, representing the eighteen months of the Mayan calendar.

The pyramid is also directionally oriented to mark the solstices and equinoxes. The axes that run through the northwest and southwest corners of the pyramid are oriented toward the rising point of the sun at the summer solstice and its setting point at the winter solstice.

For more information visit Chichen Itza Facts

The bringing in of the green has been a winter solstice custom across the centuries, faiths and traditions. Early Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a feast for the god of agriculture, with evergreen boughs.

Listen To Solstice Concert On NPR Radio

Listen online.

In winter, it's natural for us to rest and reflect - taking comfort in warm foods, loving companionship, and stillness. However, rather than honoring the quiet, introspective side of our nature in winter, we create expectations that bring even more stress to our lives. Rather than filling our days with activity, it would be more wise to acknowledge the cycles of nature, gravitating to shelter and warmth during this season, gathering emotional support and comfort at this bleakest time of the year

© 2006 patinkc

What Are Your Thoughts About The Solstice? - I want to hear from you

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    • patinkc profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Midwest

      @TapIn2U: Thank you, Sundae!

    • TapIn2U profile image


      5 years ago

      Happy Winter Solstice! Blessings! Sundae ;-)

    • NausetViews profile image


      6 years ago from Boston

      It may be the shortest day of the year, but it has always been a very "bright" day to me. Part of the most wonderful time of the year and always uplifting to know that sunnier/longer days are ahead.

    • patinkc profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Midwest

      @Virginia Allain: I like Windham Hill products.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      I have some winter solstice CDs that are just beautiful to listen too. Windham Hill puts them out.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Beautiful lens. I love the winter solstice.

    • GaelicForge profile image


      7 years ago

      The Solstice was hijacked by the Catholic church in order to demonize the pagan cultures and suppress their beliefs much like the Romans would do wherever they committed their crimes against humanity in the name of civilization. Being of Pictish heritage, I feel rather strongly about this.

    • chezchazz profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Love the Paul Winter concert. Nothing beats hearing this at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC, though. If you ever get the opportunity to do that do NOT miss it!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      7 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Lovely lens. I think there are many who aren't aware of the "intertwining" of some popular Christian holidays with Celtic or Pagan.

    • Frischy profile image


      7 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Beautiful! We welcome the light!

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 

      7 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      You made very beautiful lens. I don't like winter season but enjoyed your presentation!

    • tea lady 2 profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest, USA

      @heehaw lm: Thanks, heehaw!

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 

      10 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Hi TeaLady... what do people say to those celebrating Winter Solstice? Joyous Yule? May the log burn brightly? This year I'm celebrating something new, the Festival of the Inner Light (Dec. 21 to Mar. 21) - I just made a lens about it, in case you're interested. It is my attempt to bring meaning to winter celebration. :)

    • tea lady 2 profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest, USA

      @awakeningwellness: Thanks, awakeningwellness!

    • tea lady 2 profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest, USA

      @evelynsaenz1: Thank you, Evelyn!

    • tea lady 2 profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest, USA

      @Annamadagan: Annamadagan, thank you for the Angel Blessing!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens! Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      8 years ago from Royalton

      Found your lens again by reading The Deborah Bryan Daily. Love the updates since the last time I visited.

    • awakeningwellness profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a lovely lens in celebration of Yule...oh how I would love to be at Machu Picchu for that celebration!

    • Demaw profile image


      9 years ago

      I try to acknowledge the seasonal holidays rather than the buying seasons. The pursuit of a longer Christmas buying season runs rough shod over everything else. 5*

    • heehaw lm profile image

      heehaw lm 

      10 years ago

      Nice lens , very interesting. i did not ever celebrate Winter Solstice before.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Welcome Yule! Very nice lens. Wonderful picturesI would love to be at Machu Picchu at the solstice.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      very interesting!you mights like my Northern Lights page :)

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      We love to dip candles on the Winter Solstice and then light them to bring the light back to the earth.

    • MSBeltran1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Nice lens. I just started a Pagan Wheel of the Year: Yule lens, I need to link to your lens. Great job.

    • GypsyOwl profile image

      Deb Bryan 

      10 years ago from Chico California

      Beautiful lens. :D This time of year I love to review the Solstice Traditions and Festivals. I love the photo "Sunrise on the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge." IT is magical.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thank you for such beautiful images and information - I love the Machu Picchu photo.Maya

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I love the Winter Solstice, quiet nights, brilliant stars overhead, cool air. No matter how you celebrate this season, and every culture celebrates it, it's a time for giving and relaxing and feelin' gratitude for the bounty of life. May yours be full.

    • KCStargazer profile image


      12 years ago

      Happy Solstice 2006,Ditto on the first message!And welcome to the "Kaleidescope: A Random Sampler of Lenses" Group!

    • KCStargazer profile image


      12 years ago

      Great Lens, Pat!Interesting info on the Solstice. A warm welcome to the "Astrology- from Asteroids to Zodiac


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