December has always been about Christmas. However, for people of the Pagan religion, it is the time of the year to celebrate Yule. It is celebrated as the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. This is celebrated as the rebirth of the sun and the start of a long winter, also, known as the time to celebrate Yule. This year, Winter Solstice falls on Tuesday, Dec. 22.
Winter Solstice marks the first day of winter, and solstice usually occurs when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. It is also known as the longest night of the year, this means that despite the cold winter, the days get longer and longer after the winter solstice and until it transitions to summer solstice in 2016.
This particular day is known as the longest night and shortest day of the year. The tilt in the Earth’s axis causes all places in the north of the equator less than 12 hours of daylight. Humankind has always remembered this day for centuries.
This day is celebrated differently in many places. The Dongzhi Festival is celebrated in China during Winter Solstice by gathering family members together and eating food unique only to the festival. In Europe, until the start of the 16th century, this months were celebrated by the bounty of fresh meat. This means that it involves a lot of merriment and feasting. In Scandinavia, the Feast of Yule lasts for 12 long days to celebrate the Sun God, which started the tradition of burning the Yule log. The Feast of Saturnalia is a tribute to the Saturn God in ancient Rome. This also lasts for a week, celebrated by feasting, debauchery and the giving of gifts. Many of these customs were later converted into Christmas celebrations. One of the most famous ones though is celebrated in England, as thousands of druids and pagans gather to chant, sing and dance, while looking at a spectacular sunrise. And of course, who would forget Christmas, the tradition of gift-giving, dinner feasts, and decorative wreaths are easily traced back to winter solstice rituals.
How do you celebrate Winter Solstice?
You can celebrate Winter Solstice eve by watching the first winter sunset. For the next six days the sun will rise and set in the same location, however, the rest of the year it moves across the sky from day to day. You can watch the sun set on the shortest day of the year, and welcome the return of longer and longer days until the beginning of summer solstice.
You can also use candles to illuminate your home, to recall the time when sun and fire were the only sources of light. Decorate your houses with items found in nature, such as evergreen and fallen pinecones. You can also use a small rosemary plant, used in early solstice celebrations as an “herb of the sun,” to make a nice gift.
Solstice celebrations ritual are very easy to organize, you can just prepare a potluck meal and have your guests share funny stories from the previous year. For a more dramatic approach, you can ask guests to make a wish for the upcoming year while lighting a single candle. As you share wishes, the room grows brighter as a symbol of the light returning.
Winter Solstice isn’t something everyone celebrates, but the change in weather and the positioning of the sun affects everyone. So, even if you don’t recognize it as a holiday, you will probably notice a change in the length of the day.