4 Ways to Celebrate the Winter Solstice


The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and is observed on either December 21 or 22, depending on the earth’s angle to the sun. Winter Solstice is most commonly known as the first day of winter. Much like the Summer Solstice, the Winter Solstice has been celebrated by cultures worldwide since ancient times. Many of these ancient celebrations continue today and some may seem familiar as they have been appropriated into modern winter celebrations and holidays such as Christmas.

Here are some ways to celebrate the winter solstice with family and friends or on your own.

1. Decorate your Space with Evergreens

Because Evergreens keep their color all year, they symbolize hope and life persevering through cold, barren winters. Many cultures from Ancient Northern Europe down to Ancient Egypt included evergreen boughs in their Winter Solstice celebrations. Popular evergreens included holly, ivy, and fur trees.

Depending on when you like to kick off the holiday season, you’ve probably already decked your halls in boughs of holly. Wreaths, garlands, and Christmas trees have their roots in this ancient tradition. I have a 12-inch faux Christmas tree that I decorate with mini decorative pinecones that I use to celebrate Winter Solstice, in addition to my larger Christmas tree. As a seasonal decor, I keep it out on my coffee table until spring.

2. Prepare a Winter “Feast”

Before freezers and Ziploc freezer bags, winter was an anxiety-inducing time as people worried over whether the food and fuel they stockpiled over summer and fall would last through the season. With the coming of Winter Solstice came the “returning of the sun,” meaning the days were going to gradually become longer. In celebration, ancient people would hold feasts often made up of meat, wines, and fermented ales.

With Winter Solstice falling between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you may not have the time or energy to cook up a traditional feast, but there are other ways you can enjoy a celebratory nosh. Dress up your regular dinner table with candles, evergreens, and dried fruit, like oranges. Incorporate a traditional solstice dish like roasted meat, root vegetables, fresh baked bread, or roasted nuts. Your “feast” could be as simple as baking cookies, especially gingerbread.

3. Create Homemade Gifts

Like with other winter holidays, gift-giving is a Winter Solstice tradition. It aligns with the spirit of kindness and sharing with family and friends. Up to the 20th century, homemade gifts were preferred to store-bought, and thoughtful yet sneaky gifters would remove price tags in an attempt to pass their gift off as handmade. 

In keeping with tradition, here are a few easy homemade gift ideas:

  • Mason jar gifts filled with cookie mixes, soup ingredients, or stovetop potpourri.
  • Handmade tree ornaments made from natural materials e.g. decorated pine cones or dried fruit.
  • A bread starter like sourdough or Amish friendship bread. One of my aunts gifted my family with an Amish friendship bread starter when I was in middle school. Not only did we have a tasty treat for ourselves, but we made a few starters as gifts to teachers and friends.

4. Celebrate under the Night Sky

Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. This gives you plenty of time to bundle up and escape into nature from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Winter is also the best time of the year for stargazing. If you have the backyard space, light up a bonfire and sip on some hot cocoa or herbal tea under a twinkling night sky. You can also take in the cool winter air with a stroll around your neighborhood or a Christmas Light show that offers walking tours. 

Winter has the potential to be a very dark, cold, and dreary time. I hope that by celebrating Winter Solstice and creating your own traditions, you will be able to see the bright side of the shortest day of the year.

How do you plan to celebrate the Winter Solstice!

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Shacoya Jacobs
Shacoya is a devoted wife, mother of an Âûsome son (‘16) and vivacious daughter (‘19), and caretaker of her loving mother. Columbia became her home after surviving sunburn and mosquito bites to meet and fall in love with her husband while they were working at the Riverbanks Zoo gift shop. Her love of writing began when she won the Young Author’s Award in the fourth grade and culminated in her writing a 50,000+ word novel in 30 days for the annual National Novel Writing Month challenge, NaNoWriMo, in 2019. Along with writing, Shacoya also enjoys the art of fake 'n bakin’ (making premade ingredients taste like homemade), developing the skill of actually using the pins on her Pinterest boards, fangirling Richland Library, window shopping on Etsy, and learning about ways to be a better human being.


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