Totally over this whole dark at 4 pm situation? Then you’ll be happy to hear that Wednesday, 21 December, marks the celebration of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, officially the shortest day and longest night of 2022. Wondering why on earth anyone would want to celebrate the darkest night? Stick with us!
This ancient solar festival falls on the shortest day of the year, but there’s more to it than a slow march towards summer al fresco. To our ancestors, this rebirth of the sun signalled the beginning of Yule, a cause for great celebration and feasting.
Take a look at the crowds gathering to watch the solstice sun rise or set at Stonehenge and you’ll see not much has changed since. For modern pagans and witches, the winter solstice (one of the eight Wheel of the Year sabbat celebrations) is a potent and magical time for self-reflection, future visioning and intention setting. And if you fancy getting in on the action, it can be just that for you too.
So, ignore those missed delivery slips, ditch the Christmas shopping stress and sink into a seasonal celebration that’s way less stressful and a whole lot more magical than the one currently taking up all your headspace. Celebrating the winter solstice can be as low-key or as extra as you like – simply pick the practice(s) or rituals that speak to you from the list below and use them to help you dream up a seriously next-level new year.
What is the winter solstice?
It’s the time of the year when the Sun is lowest (or most southernmost) in the sky and furthest from the North Pole.
Because Earth is tilted on its axis, the arc that the Sun moves through rises and falls, so the Sun can appear higher and lower in the sky in different seasons.
What does ‘solstice’ mean?
It’s actually is derived from the Latin word “solstitium”, which means “sun stands still” – this is because the Sun’s path stops temporarily before changing direction and starting a new season.
How long is the shortest day of the year?
Wednesday, 21 December will last 7 hours, 49 minutes and 42 seconds, which is a right sight shorter than the longest day in the summer, which will fall on Wednesday, 21 June 2023.
Do the days get longer after the winter solstice?
Yes, praise be! From 22 December onwards, the days will gradually get longer, with the number of daylight hours peaking during the summer solstice. Both the spring and autumnal equinoxes – which are in March and September, respectively – are roughly the same length, as well.
When does winter start?
There’s no one clear-cut answer, because while many view the winter solstice as marking the beginning of winter, meteorologists argue that it starts earlier in December.
But why not mark the start of winter with a solstice celebration, whatever date in December you choose?
How is the winter solstice celebrated?
Many congregate around stone circles in Britain and Ireland (such as Stone Henge) to commemorate the shortest day, while others burn yule logs for 12 hours to symbolise the hope for warmth and light to return (we feel this particularly).