The official start of winter is on Friday at 6:12 a.m. (EST), December 21, 2012. The Earth’s North Pole will be at its maximum tilt away from the sun making it the shortest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. Solstice actually means “sun stands still,” and is observed twice a year, in the winter and summer.
The Winter Solstice marks the second day of Yule. The Twelve Days of Yule start on December 20th and last until December 31st. The Winter Solstice represents the shortest day and the longest night. From this day forward we will begin to see more and more of the sun.
Many of our customs and traditions depend on our culture. I didn’t grow up celebrating the solstice but I’ve loved learning about how people used to celebrate the Earth’s changes and how they keep time with the cycles of the agricultural year. I’ve loved adding some of the timeless traditions to my children’s lives as well, like the solstice bonfire where we will be drinking the traditional spiced cider and eating fruit and nut cake.
Some of the age-old traditions from Northern Europe during the solstice are the same or similar to our Christmas traditions with different names. For instance: the “Tree of Life” being brought into the home and festively decorated and topped with a star representing the Light of Life. Fertility symbols were also used like holly and mistletoe.
Like I’ve mentioned on previous posts, I like to put books away and only get them out during their special time of year. It makes my children real excited to see them again and it creates tradition that way too. Books we love this time of year are The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle Von Olfers-another one of my favorite children’s book authors. Like Elsa Beskow’s books, the art in Sibylle’s books is simple, beautiful and old-fashioned too. The Story of The Snow Children is about winter and not the solstice. Our favorite Winter Solstice book is The Shortest Day. Another winter book we enjoy is The Winter Book.
Happy Winter Solstice to you!