For the Northern Hemisphere, especially the northern Northern, it is a dark, cold day – and the turning point of light…Winter Solstice is upon us.

The Winter Solstice is upon us. The Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice falls on December 21 at 10:27 p.m. EST. South of the Equator, this same moment marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Solstices occur at the same time around the world, but their local times vary with time zones.  But whether you are in Tirupattur, India or Mobile, Alabama, it is an ancient and scientific key moment. For the Southern hemisphere, summer is about to begin and for the Northern, winter – and is the shortest day of the year.

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If you are in Longyearbyen, it is twilight all day, where in the Antarctic Circle, the residents experience Midnight Sun, when the sun does not set at night. Humans may have observed the winter solstice as early as Neolithic period—the last part of the Stone Age, beginning about 10,200 B.C.  It is believed Stonehenge, which is arranged for Stone Age people to celebrate the solstice, is another example of historic markings of the date.

Photo by Ron Lach via Pexels

Cultures around the world have long held feasts and celebrated holidays around the winter solstice. Fire and light are traditional symbols of celebrations held on the darkest day of the year. Here are few celebrations

Soyal is the winter solstice celebration of the Hopi Indians of northern Arizona. Ceremonies and rituals include purification, dancing, and sometimes gift-giving. At the time of the solstice, Hopi welcome the kachinas, protective spirits from the mountains. Prayer sticks are crafted and used for various blessings and other rituals.

The Persian festival Yalda, or Shab-e Yalda is a celebration of the winter solstice in Iran that started in ancient times. It marks the last day of the Persian month of Azar. Yalda is viewed traditionally as the victory of light over dark, and the birthday of the sun god Mithra. Families celebrate together with special foods like nuts and pomegranates and some stay awake all night long to welcome the morning sun.

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Even Antarctica gets its share of solstice celebration, thanks to the researchers staying there over the long, dangerously cold season. While those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying the most daylight hours, in the Southern Hemisphere they are celebrating Midwinter. Festivities include special meals, films, and sometimes even handmade gifts.

St. Lucia’s Day is a festival of lights celebrated in Scandinavia around the time of the winter solstice. Although it is now meant to honor St. Lucia, a Christian martyr, it has been incorporated with earlier Norse solstice traditions, such as lighting fires to ward off spirits during the longest night. Girls dress up in white gowns with red sashes and wear wreaths of candles on their heads in honor of St. Lucia.

Top four ways most people celebrate winter solstice: drinking, complaining about lack of light, consuming cannabis, and prepping for the holiday season.

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