Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice. So, what does that mean exactly?
Astronomically, the Winter Solstice marks the day the sun is the furthest south in the Northern Hemisphere. The nights get longer, the days get shorter, and unless you live in the Tropics, the temperatures can plummet. Even better, the further north you travel, the shorter the days become, and Polar Night becomes your reality. The term “day” becomes meaningless inside the Polar Circle, where twilight reigns through the winter months.
Historically, the Winter Solstice has been significant since Neolithic times because it marked the rebirth of the sun. Priests of many cultures tracked the heavens and the stars so they would know precisely when hold significant other rituals to “bring back the summer.” The Winter Solstice marked the last feast before deep winter and the “famine months” when food was scarce, and people faced starvation before the onset of spring.
The Chinese holiday of Dong Zhi embodies the concept of yin and yang, in which the darkness of winter balances out the light of summer. In England, thousands gather at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise through the stones. Christian tradition looks to the rebirth of the Son.
Other traditions around the world pay tribute to the darkness and welcome the dawn as the rebirth of the solar year. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia from December 17 to December 25, and the latter date carried into the Christian calendar to become Christmas. Many Indigenous people around the world honor the rebirth of the Sun Deity or spending time with family during the cold, harsh months of winter.
Whatever your spiritual or religious beliefs, the Winter Solstice is traditionally a time of reflection and release. Solstice rituals include candles to light the way through the longest and darkest of nights, meditating on the last year, and looking ahead to what is to come.