This Wednesday, December 21st, is the Winter Solstice—the shortest day of the year; the first official day of Winter—Yule. The days, which have been getting shorter and shorter each day since the Summer Solstice, now will begin getting longer by a minute or two each day (YAY!).
South of the Equator, you understand, it is the first day of SUMMER. In Australia, it’s not unusual to have backyard barbecues on Christmas Day!
How We Celebrate
Many cultures around the world have celebrated the Winter Solstice. In England, thousands of people gather at Stonehenge to welcome the Solstice and in the town of Brighton, people parade with hand-made lanterns that are then burned in a huge bonfire by the sea.
In Ireland, dozens of people selected by a lottery are invited to the Newgrange Monument to watch the sunrise on the Winter Solstice. Newgrange is a Stone Age monument with a special chamber aligned with the sun as it rises on the Winter Solstice. At dawn, the chamber is filled with sunlight for about 17 minutes. More than thirty thousand people apply for a spot annually, but only 60 are chosen.
And in Scandinavia, they burn Yule logs. “Yule” came from the Norse word hweol, which means wheel. The Norse believed that the sun was a great wheel of fire that rolled towards and away from the earth. Yule logs were burned to remind the sun to “roll back” to the earth.
How I Celebrate
Here, in America, it’s business as usual, except for people like me. I can’t wait for the longer warmer days of spring to go outside and play in my garden again so my heart is a little lighter.
In the meantime, I have my houseplants to satisfy the gardener in including two kumquats, a Meyer lemon and a key lime which are all fruiting. And, in a couple of weeks when I bring the first of my amaryllis out of dormancy, I’ll have them to watch, too.
And, of course, right now with 2023 dated seeds here, I can feed the gardener in me by reading seed packets and picking out my favorites….
What are some of your Holiday customs?