What is winter solstice? What are the traditions? Why do we celebrate it?
Winter solstice means we are saying hello to darker days, but there are also many cultures around the world who celebrate winter solstice with many different traditions. Most of these traditions are deeply rooted & that is one of the things that makes them so beautiful. Traditions vary depending on the culture, but you can also partake in any of the traditions yourself, even if you’re not from that culture. There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting a new tradition yourself. I was not brought up to have a witchy bone in my body, but here I am, living my life exactly how I want too, creating my own traditions & following my heart.
It is mainly Pagans who partake in the tradition of Yule, it is traditionally the rebirth of the sun & the new solar year. But you may of heard of the Yule log even if you are not a Pagan, when the Yule log is burned, a piece of last years log is placed in the fire also. It is ultiamtely thought to determined a person’s good or bad luck. A European belief held that the log had to catch fire on the first attempt to light it, otherwise all the people of the home would have bad luck. Another stated that the remains of a log must be kept for the following year’s ceremony for good luck, the ashes were sometimes stored under a bed in order to make a home immune to evil spirits and lightening strikes.
Lots of people visit Stonehendge for winter & summer solstice, they go to watch the enchanting sunrise whilst gathered with 100’s of people all there for the same reason.
Iranians celebreare Shab-e Yalda which means “night of birth.” It is believed that more evil lurks during the longer, darker hours. Members celebrating stay up to protect and watch over one another. Families usually feast on nuts, read poetry, and partake in acts of charity. Have you ever heard of the witching hour at 3am?
Kalasha or Kalash Kafir people partake in Chaomos in parts of Pakistan. It consists of seven days, and includes the winter solstice. There’s ritual bathing, eating, bonfires, singing and dancing.
In China, Dongzhi translates to ‘extreme winter’ & the festival is designed to allow people to spend time with their families and eat lavish meals while also honoring more daylight hours. For them, the return of daylight hours also signifies a boost in positive energy.
In ancient Rome, Saturnalia is one of the most festive celebrations. Work and businesses would close, and everyone would really let their hair down to celebrate the winter months ahead. Music, gift giving, and eating were a main part of the festivities.
Ancient December Solstice
Before Christianity, the December solstice marked a time for showing forgiveness and splitting food.