With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and end of year celebrations, it’s easy to breeze right past one of the most important transitions nature offers us: the beginning of winter marked by the winter solstice.
Occurring annually on or around December 21st, the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, with the least amount of sunlight. The word “solstice” comes from two root words in Latin: sol, or “sun,” and sistere, which means “to stop.” To our ancestors, it literally appeared that the sun had stopped moving!
Today we might associate the solstice with the darkness of winter, but for our ancestors, it had a different significance. Since the days gradually get longer following the solstice, our ancestors also honored this day as the return of the light. It was a time to rejoice and celebrate the eventual coming of spring and the beginning of another cycle of new life and growth.
While the final days of the year can be hectic, the winter solstice is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the changing seasons with our littles. Here are a few ideas on how to bring this special occasion to life for the whole family:
- To honor the darkness of the season and get a sense for what our ancestors may have experienced, try keeping the lights off all day long. We like to eat our meals by candlelight on the solstice, and also limit the use of any electronics throughout the day. I find that turning off the lights invites all of us to slow down, which is an added benefit during such a busy time of year!
- Try making a special treat in honor of the solstice! While lemony shortbread cookies are a good choice to celebrate the return of the light, I also like to explore older recipes that my European ancestors may have made at the same time of year. I’m excited to try this recipe for dark nougat.
- Once the sun sets, help your children light candles (or light a family candle instead). Together, take turns sharing a wish for the coming year and one way each of you plan to let your own light shine. When everyone has shared, sing “This Little Light of Mine,” then blow out your candles together.
- Read The Shortest Day, by Wendy Pfeffer together. This book talks about the history of the solstice and describes many ways cultures around the world would honor this important occasion.
Do you have a favorite way to celebrate the winter solstice with your family? If so, share it with us here!