5 Ways to Celebrate the Winter Solstice
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the winter solstice serves as a reminder of our connection to Earth’s rhythms. Marking the shortest day and longest night of the year, the solstice occurs when the earth’s axis is tilted furthest away from the sun. Derived from two Latin words, ‘sol’ which means ‘sun’ and ‘sistere’ which means ‘to stand still’. Hence, the solstice is a time to pause and reflect before entering the new year, so we’re offering modern ways to mirror the winter solstice rituals and traditions created by our ancestors.
The sun’s rebirth in the new year is celebrated on the winter solstice at the ancient monument, Stonehenge in England. Archeologists theorize that the monument, which is a ring of standing stones about 13 feet high and 7 feet wide, was built from 3000 BC to 2000 BC and used to track the passage of time. Thousands gather at Stonehenge each year to watch the sunrise on the solstice. Since the Neolithic period, the solstice has been observed with rituals like the Stonehenge gathering and many other types of festivals across the world.
Inspired by the various ancient traditions practiced to honor this earth cycle, we’ve curated 5 ideas for celebrating the winter solstice this year from your own corner of the world!
Ancient Festival: The Inca Empire held a sun festival called ‘Inti Raymi’ on the solstice when they traveled to a ceremonial plaza before dawn to watch the sunrise. During the sunrise ceremony, they sacrificed animals and offered cups of chicha, a fermented corn drink.
Solstice Celebration Idea: To capture the light on the darkest day of the year, set your alarm to wake you before the time of sunrise in your area and with enough time to hike to your favorite outlook. Pack a thermos of your favorite coffee or tea to sip while you watch the solstice sunrise. We’d love to see your solstice hike so tag @firelightcamps in your Instagram post or story and we’ll share with our Firelight tribe on stories!
Ancient Tradition: Symbolizing the return of the sun during the darkest time of year, ancient Scandinavians brought large logs, known as Yule logs, into their homes and set them on fire. The Yule logs would burn for up to 12 days and during that time, the solstice was honored with a feast. Continuing the tradition of light on the darkest night, Vancouver’s Secret Lantern Society is holding it’s 25th Winter Solstice Lantern Festival where attendees can explore a maze of 600 candles.
Solstice Celebration Idea: Bring light to the the darkest night of the year by creating lanterns. There are many ways to do this, for example, you can place tea candles in glass jars, or construct your own lantern out of paper. We love this DIY hanging mason jar lights tutorial from Ananda at A Piece of Rainbow! On the solstice, light them around your home. If you have outdoor space, you can create a mini lantern maze for a star-gazing gathering.
Hot Chocolate Bar
Ancient Feast: Ancient Romans celebrated the god of agriculture with a feast of food and drink called Juvenalia to honor the children in Rome during week-long celebration leading up the winter solstice.
Solstice Celebration Idea: To warm up on the winter solstice, create a hot chocolate bar with a variety of cocoa mixes, hot water or your preferred milk, and toppings (like cinnamon and whipped cream!).
At Firelight Camps we serve hot cocoa that’s inspired by the ancient Mayans who created the chocolate drink over 2,000 years ago! We serve our hot cocoa with mini marshmallows and peppermint sticks!
Click here for an exclusive recipe card with Co-Founder Emma Frisch’s recipe for Hot Chocolatada from her cookbook Feast By Firelight!
Tradition: A common practice in Japan during the winter solstice is to take warm baths with a citrus fruit called yuzu, representing good health and preventing the common cold during the winter. Even some Japanese zoos, like the Fukuoka City Zoological, join this tradition by providing hot citrus baths for their animals.
Solstice Celebration Idea: To wind down and warm up before the longest night of the year, run a warm bath and toss in sliced citrus. In addition to protecting your health, the Japanese tradition is believed to bring good luck in the new year.
Ancient Ritual: On the solstice, the sun stops at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses directions. For many, this has symbolized the new year, new beginnings and rebirth. Similar to the Stonehenge monument in England, the Newgrange monument in Ireland is aligned with the sunrise and fills with light on the winter solstice, marking the beginning of a new year.
Solstice Celebration Idea: Mirror the activity of the sun on the solstice by pausing to reflect on this past year, its peaks and valleys, and then write a letter of intention for the new year. Seal the letter in an envelope and on the next winter solstice, read your letter and see how your solstice intentions evolved through the year.