Winter Solstice

Photo: Joshua Woronie / unsplash

The tradition of celebrating the movements of the sun and the resulting seasons has been part of religious practices from before historic times. Early believers saw December 21st as the rebirth of the sun. There was hope that after the day of the most darkness, light would be ahead. The sun would journey back and the dormant earth would come to life.

In Germany, the winter festival around the 21st of December was called Yule. Since celebrations connected to solstice practices were already happening in the regions that are now known as Europe, Scandinavia, and the British Isles, it made sense for the Catholic Church to overlay Christ’s birth with the same season. This happened In the 4th century. The Yuletide continues.

The cold and darkness of the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere led to indoor activities such as feasting and lighting candles. Certain plants – particularly holly and pine trees – became associated with the winter solstice as they were still green.

Some monuments and burial sites dating back to 3,000 years BCE are in alignment with the winter solstice sun and thought to have symbolism related to rebirth. As the sun moves higher, it becomes a new year, with a new agricultural season yielding new growth.

Underneath the frozen earth at the time of winter solstice, there is still life. Microbes such as bacteria and fungus are alive and waiting. The dormancy of the earth is necessary for various seeds and bulbs to come forth in Spring. The winter solstice begins a season of hope