Winter Solstice is also known as ‘Hibernal Solstice’ or ‘Hiemal Solstice’ is a natural phenomenon that marks the official arrival of Winter. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year. This year Winter Solstice will happen today, that is December 21. Following the Winter Solstice, days start becoming longer and nights shorter for people in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s just the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere. The solstice is celebrated in many different cultures and traditions around the globe.
Winter Solstice is the longest day and the shortest night of the year.
What is Solstice?
The word ‘solstice’ is derived from the Latin word sol (Sun) and sister (to stand still), meaning the ‘stalled sun.’ Both Summer Solstice and Winter Solstices are astronomical events marking the movement of the Sun and change in the duration of day and night time.
Why does Winter Solstice take place?
The Winter Solstice happens when the countries in the northern hemisphere are farthest from the Sun, and the Sun shines overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn. The North Pole is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees as it rotates around the Sun. This phenomenon causes the movement of the Sun from the northern to the southern hemisphere and vice versa, bringing in seasonal changes in the year.
Winter Solstice: History and traditions
A Saturnalia celebration in England in 2012.
Saturnalia is an ancient Roman solstice celebration dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture and time. It is a week-long and most popular Roman festival. The festival is celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, followed by exchanging gifts, gambling, and drinking revoking the Roman social norms.
Yule is observed on Winter Solstice by ancient Norsemen of Scandinavia. It is celebrated for twelve days starting from Winter Solstice. Its celebrations include a symbolic fire, with the burning of large logs, known as Yule logs. The people would light the logs and feast around them. The burning of logs marks the continuation of light despite the darkness and providing warmth.
Winter Solstice, Stonehenge
People gathered to celebrate Winter Solstice on Dec 2019
Every year, thousands of people gather at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise and sunset on Winter Solstice. Stonehenge is a historical monument located in Wiltshere. Stonehenge’s stones are aligned on a sight-line that points to Winter Solstice sunset and have symbolized Winter Solstice for thousands for years.
Winter in Iran
Winter Solstice in Iran is known as Shab-e-Yalda, meaning ‘Night of Birth’. The Persians gather with their friends and family on the longest night of year and burn fire. They make wishes, feast on nuts, pomegranates, and other festive foods, read poetry and perform charitable acts. This festival is observed in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan.
A village in Japan during winters
In Japan, Winter Solstice is celebrated as Toji. The Japanese believe that the Sun gets stronger from this day, bringing good luck and marking the harmony and balance of life force. The people embrace cold Winter by taking warm baths scented with yuzu, a citrus fruit.
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The Chinese celebrate the winter solstice as Dong Zhi, meaning Winter arrives. It is an auspicious day for the Chinese as they welcome the return of longer days and worship Heaven and ancestors.