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the solstice in December

Christmas is coming on fast (just a few days away!), but there’s something else worthy of merriment this week.  It’s a day that’s been celebrated since the ancients roamed the earth: the celestial observance known as the winter solstice.

The solstice marks the shortest day, hence longest night, of the year, and also the point at which the sun remains lowest in the sky.  It’s a day to celebrate the impending re-lengthening of the day, headed towards a fruitful and glorious Spring.  There have been many different festivals and celebrations held on the Winter Solstice throughout recorded history.  Amongst them are Brumalia, the Asian Dongzhi Festival, Midwinter, Saturnalia, and the Scandinavian Saint Lucia Day.

 traditional Midwinter celebrations

Common to all of the solstice celebrations are several central themes directly connected to the life cycle of our ancestors.  The timing of midwinter made it ideal for celebration, as alcoholic beverages made with Fall’s barley, wheat, or grapes were fermented by this time and ready for consumption.  Cattle would also be slaughtered around this time of year to avoid having to feed them for the full length of winter, making it a perfect time for villages to feast.

During such festivities it would be common to wear jewelry, pendants, or hair ornaments that carried representations of the sun, as the fete in many ways honored the revitalization of solar activity.  From here the days would re-grow in length, and this in itself was something to celebrate.  For this reason oranges (symbolic of the sun) whether fresh, candied, or dried were often eaten during the festivals as well.

 beautiful sun jewelry

In some cultures tribal dance or singing was also included in the revelry, as were several different communal astronomical observances.  Many of the ground formations and stone monuments still visible in the modern day UK were constructed by Celtic and other pagan ethnic groups to align with the sun or moon on specific days of the year.  Even the famous Stonehenge is aligned from it’s center to coincide with the orientation of the sun as it sets on the solstice.

 Stonehenge lining up with the setting solstice sun

Today, as it was in centuries past, the Winter Solstice still finds a means of celebration, particularly amongst the neo-druid and pagan subgroups of the modified community.

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