What Is the Winter Solstice?

It actually only lasts a moment, but the WINTER SOLSTICE is celebrated by many cultures with a spirit of rebirth and long tradition. Holidays and festivals mark the winter solstice, the time when exactly when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26′. What does this mean for us? Longer nights, shorter days and plenty of celebrations.

 “Solstice” comes from the Latin “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere,” which is “to cause to stand still”. In ancient times, these astronomical events actually influenced everything from harvests to moods, and so people around the planet observed the occasion in different ways.

 Even today, gatherings are valued for emotional well-being in the gloom of winter during the darkest time of the year. Midwinter festivals often feature evergreens, lots of lights, cozy fires, feasts, time with family and friends, and the practice of dancing and singing to get warm in the cold weather.

 The span of celebrations in December is diverse in both religion and culture. Observances around the winter solstice include Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and traditions of Neopagan Wiccans, as well as the Native American tribes.

  Familiar symbols and practices that have evolved with the holidays come from Pagan times: the decoration of homes with holly, ivy, mistletoe; the burning of the yule log; the giving of gifts; the decoration of an evergreen tree; the belief in magical reindeer, and more.

 This year, the Winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (UT) will take place exactly on December 21, 2010 at 23:38 (or 11:38pm). However you celebrate, remember to take the time to appreciate family and friends, and to count your blessings.

 What are some of your winter traditions?