Happy first day of Winter! As if December doesn’t have enough holidays to celebrate, there is another reason to get together and celebrate this month: the Winter Solstice! This day is celebrated in December for the Northern Hemisphere and in June for the Southern Hemisphere. It is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. But don’t worry. The days only get brighter from here! Around the world, different cultures celebrate this day in their own unique ways. Here are just some of the ways that this day is celebrated around the world:
- Soyal: This is the celebration of the Hopi Indians in Northern Arizona. This is the time that the Hopi welcome protective spirits from the mountains, known as kachinas. Their ceremonies include dancing, purification, and gift giving.
- St. Lucia’s Day: Also known as the Festival of Lights, this celebration is held in Scandinavia to honor St. Lucia, a Christian martyr. They also incorporate earlier Norse traditions like lighting fires to ward off spirits. Young women wear white dresses, red sashes, and wreaths of candles on their heads.
- Yaldā Night: This Iranian celebration is a night where friends and family gather together to eat, drink, and read poetry. Watermelon and pomegranates are significant in their feasting because they are red in color. This symbolizes the glow of life. The poems often read are from the poet Divan-e Hafez.
- Stonehenge Gathering: In England, Stonehenge was built in a way that lines up with the sun’s movement. Because of this, people have gathered for years at dawn after the longest night of the year to revel in the beauty of the sun rising through the stones.
- Dongji: In South Korea, this day is called the Little New Year. This tradition includes eating patjuk, a red bean porridge. Other traditions include giving socks and calendars as the old Korean kings used to do. On this day, it is considered good luck if it snows! According to their tradition, the cold weather and snow will bring a bountiful harvest.
- Dong Zhi: This festival is celebrated in China! It is the arrival of winter. This tradition is said to have started as a celebration of the end of their harvest. When the workers returned from the fields, they shared their harvest with their family. Tang Yuan, or glutinous rice balls, is one of the special foods enjoyed on this day.
- Shalako: The Shalako festival is celebrated for multiple days by the Zuni people in New Mexico. The Shalako is a 10 foot tall structure with the face of a bird symbolizing important deities. These celebrations are usually closed to the public and include various dances and symbols representing the different deities. They celebrate these deities to bring “balance” and “blessings” for their agricultural year.
We hope that you have a happy and safe holiday season!