Winter solstice celebrations to brighten up your December

Winter solstice celebrations to brighten up your December

Christmas is fast approaching – but it’s not the only winter festival on the calendar.

Different cultures have celebrated this winter Solstice since the beginning of human history.

The solstice, which falls on December 21 in the northern hemisphere, is the shortest day of daylight and the longest night of the year.

Also known as the winter solstice, it occurs when the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun.

So when the nights fall, where in Europe should you celebrate this ancient tradition?

Why do different cultures celebrate the winter solstice?

The word “solstice” is derived from the Latin word sōlstitium, which means “sun stands still”.

Many ancient cultures depended economically on monitoring the course of the seasons. The winter solstice marked the beginning of a difficult one wintertime – but also the rebirth of the sun as the days gradually lengthen in the new year.

From Saturnalia – the ancient Roman festival from Saturn – until Christmas, the darkest time of the year was always a time of feasting and celebration.

But some ancient cultures specifically marked the solstices — and their monuments remain.

So where should you spend the day?

3. Newgrange, Ireland


Newgrange is one of Ireland’s holiest sites. – Canvas

Newgrange is one of Ireland’s holiest sites. The huge kidney-shaped mound, covering over one hectare, is one of the oldest astronomically oriented structures in the world.

The structure was built around 3,200 BC. Built as a Neolithic burial mound and place of worship, it is five thousand years old. archaeologists It is estimated that a workforce of 300 people would have taken about 20 years to build.

Every year on the winter solstice, a ray of sunlight penetrates deep into the tomb and illuminates the chamber. The dramatic event lasts about 17 minutes at dawn on the solstice.

Over the millennia, the hills have entered Irish mythology as Sídhe, or Fairy Hills. Newgrange is said to have been the home of Oenghus, the god of love.

How to visit

You must be very lucky to secure entry into Newgrange on the morning of the Solstice.

Entry into the chamber on midsummer mornings is decided by a lottery held at the end of September each year. Around 30,000 applicants apply for 50 ballot papers.

But if you miss it, you can still gather outside Newgrange Hill to celebrate the event

2. Stonehenge, UK

Stonehenge is one of those United Kingdom the most notable monuments.

The origin and purpose of the monumental ring of massive stones – each around four meters high – has puzzled awe-inspiring visitors for centuries. Medieval people speculated that it was built by giants or the magician Merlin. Modern conspiracy theorists describe the site as an alien landing pad – a hotly debated theory in some corners of the internet.

In reality it was probably a place of worship, pilgrimage and healing. Some of the people buried there were even from the Mediterranean.

The structure may also have functioned as a giant solar calendar. The site is oriented towards the sunrise of the summer solstice and the sunset winter solstice. Archaeological evidence shows that pigs were slaughtered at Stonehenge in December and January, indicating the time of the solstices festivals.

Every year, visitors from all over the world gather to celebrate the winter solstice and watch the sunrise over the stones. The memorial faces the sunset, but visitors gather the morning after to celebrate.

How to visit

The sun rises at 8:04 am on December 22nd. Entry is free. Entry to the memorial is from approximately 7:45am (or when it’s light enough to get inside safely) until 10:00am. Parking is extremely limited, officials add.

1. Saint Lucy’s Day, parts of Scandinavia


A girl dressed as Saint Lucy and her maids walk the streets of the small town of Aange (Ånge), 400 km north of Stockholm – SVEN NACKSTRAND / AFP

In SwedenNorway and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland, solstice celebrations have merged with the more recent tradition of St. Lucia’s Day.

This festival of lights takes place on December 13th – the solstice according to the old Julian calendar – in honor of Saint Lucy, a young Sicilian Christian woman who was killed by the Romans in 304 AD.

Today this event marks the start of the Christmas season and churches around the world Scandinavia are full of processions of young women in white robes with candles on their heads.

The festival also includes celebrations of the pagan winter solstice, and traditionally, gingersnaps, saffron-flavored buns and glogg are served.

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