Winter Solstice ~ What it means, its origins and how it is celebrated around the world

The axis at New Grange were set for the Winter Solstice.

Sun Celebration,

Yule or Yuletide is also a celebrated secular alternative to “Christmas”, commonly occurring on the winter solstice or December 24th and 25th, in the northern hemisphere.

In Finland, the Saami, which are the indigenous peoples of much of Scandinavia,worship a sun goddes of fertility and sanity. Originally Celebrated by the Ancient Greeks as Kronia the festival of Chronos, Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of Saturn, which originally took place on 17 December, but expanded to a whole week, up to the 23 of December.

This year, Winter Solstice falls on December 21nd.

The toga was not worn, but rather the synthesis, i.e. Slaves were exempt from punishment, and treated their masters with disrespect.

Archeologists and paleontologists believe that solstice festivals may have gone on since neolithic times, since physical remains have been found during Neolithic and Bronze Age archeological sites such as Stonehenge and New Grange.

Sun rising at Stonehenge in southern England during Summer Solstice. Children disguised themselves as Koledari, and visited house and sang songs of good luck. The winter months were also known as the famine months in ancient times. This originated as Lussi Night and was usually occurred on December 13, which was believed to have been the longest night of the year.The Roman Catholic church appropriated this feast and called it Santa Lucia or St. Gambling was allowed for all, even slaves during this period.

Of course, one of the most beautiful festivals is that of Santa Lucia, St. Winter Solstice is commonly referred to globally as December Solstice.

In Pakistan, a demigod returns on this night to collect prayers; men and boys, women and children undergo purification baths, after which a great festival follows.

Japanese Sun Goddess Amaterasu emerging from a cave.

Besides public rituals, there were a series of holidays and customs celebrated privately. Families made a fire and invited their personal household Gods to join the festival. colorful, informal “dinner clothes”; and a certain ‘freedman’s hat’ was worn by everyone. On this night, Hors, which symbolizes the old sun, becomes smaller as the days become shorter in the Northern Hemisphere.

The earliest recorded Australian midwinter bonfire was lit in  Moonta,  the night leading into  June 24, 1862 by  immigrants carrying on the European Midsummer  tradition. In Russia, this festival was later applied to Christmas Eve but most practices were lost during Communism. Lucy’s day in Sweden. Wikipedia commons, free license. Missionaries finally convinced many in Europe to abandon this practice around the 13th century in Europe.


Fires burned brightly during Winter Solstice in ancient times.

New Grange, Ireland, dating from about 3,000 BC. “Jewish Yule”) for Chanukkah.

Machu Picchu sunrise, Wikipedia public domain

Use of evergreens, large ongoing fires, feasting and gathering with friends and family, dancing and making merry are hallmarks of the winter solstice celebrations since ancient times, and even since the beginning of civilization.

The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned, framing the winter solstice sunrise (New Grange)and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge).

Winter solstice festivals in the Northern Hemisphere have gone on since ancient times, focusing on lights, feasts, town and community gatherings, and many celebrations that are the origins of some of the practices associated during the Christmas holidays.

In Ireland, winter begins on All Hallows, November 1, also known as Samhain, with winter ending and the beginning of Spring celebrating on Imbolc or Candlemas on February 1 or 2.

In the Northern Hemisphere, that means the shortest day of the year.  In the Southern Hemisphere, that day is longer on that day than on any other day of the year. The Spanish Conquistadores never found Machu Picchu, and so Machu Picchu remains the only extant example of this early Incan practice of using the large stone column, the Intihuatana, to tie the post to the sun, to prevent the sun from escaping.

A large and important public festival in Rome, it involved the conventional sacrifices, a couch set in front of the temple of Saturn and the untying of the ropes that bound the statue of Saturn during the rest of the year.

In China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, the festival that marks the extreme of winter is one of the most important festivals; this festival dates back to the Yin and Yang philosophy of balance, noting, of course, the shortest day and longest night during the year, during which time the heavens become more in balance. The midwinter bonfire holiday also began in Burra soon after.

In Sweden, and also in many other parts of Europe, tribes that were polytheistic in origin often celebrated a Midvinterblot or mid-winter sacrifice, that often featured both animal and human sacrifice, not unlike the sacrifices of the Incas of the lamb or the virgin by the Priests at Machu Picchu.

Saturnalia, of course, is the Winter Solstice feast that predates most Winter Solstice feasts. They were given gifts in return, much like the old wassailing or mummers tradition.

The contemporary Scandinavian Jul, Julfest, Jol or Joulu is primarily a cultural observance and does not distinguish between the Germanic feast, the Christian Christmas, the secular Yule, the Neopagan Yule, or the pre-indo European winter solstice celebration and is also occasionally used to denote other holidays in December, e.g., “jodisk jul” or “judisk jul” (tr. The celebrations included a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia) and a special market (sigillaria). Lucy’s Day, and was believed in the Swedish folklore that if Swedish children did not carry out their chores that a female demon would punish them.

Currently, Yulefest is observed by various Australians, often starting on a weekend in late  June.

Wikipedia public domain

Priests also sacrificed llamas and virgins at Machu Picchu.

The sacrifice was to appease the Gods, to convince them to let go of Winter’s cold, cruel grip. She travels through the sky in a vehicle made of reindeer bones with her daughter; this is believed to signal the return of green to the world.

The slaves celebrated a banquet: before, with, or served by the masters. Most wine and beer that had been made was finally ready for drinking during this time.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not assured to live through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months.

In Hawaii, the night of Hoku was a celebration on the full moon closest to the winter solstice.

Winter Solstice festivals around the world, from early times.. Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals, which led to more tomfoolery, marked chiefly by having masters and slaves ostensibly switch places, temporarily reversing the social order.

Nobody was assured of surviving the cold, bleak winter months with minimal shelter and little food. The midwinter celebration was known as the last celebration of a feast, before deep winter began.

Creative Commons: Fredrik Magnusson

Solar celebrations in the Southern Hemisphere often occur on December 24.

In Japan, dating from the 7th century, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu (or Amateras, Hindu) re-emerged from her cave, to bring sunlight back to the world. Stonehenge was used a s a calendar during ancient times. The longer daylight hours are believed to restore energy. Balls of sticky rice, which symbolize reunion, are eaten during this time.

Karachun, Korochun or KraÃ,,Ã,un was a Slavic holiday as a day when the Black God and other evil spirits are most powerful. Requiems for the dead were performed during the night, as they awaited the sunrise.

In Slavonic culture, the festival of Kaleda began at Winter Solstice and lasted for 10 days. Other similar formations are scattered throughout Ireland.

The Incans in Peru celebrated the return of the sun in their practice, tying of the sun. In 1967 a thin light showing through a passageway for 17 minutes was first observed during sunset at Winter Solstice. The Slavs celebrate it on the longest night (shortest day) of the year – Winter Solstice. In the southern hemisphere it is often celebrated on the winter solstice or some time through early July.

The actual word solstice derives from Latin and means Sun set still in winter.

Cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during winter months; this made for a fresh supply of meat to become available, and one that would have to last until Spring

Posted by admin on May 18th, 2015 :: Filed under Uncategorized
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