Snippet: Winter Solstice Traditions



Most commonly, the winter solstice is known as the day with the least amount of light or the longest night of the year. However, this is celebrated in many ways all over the world, ranging from family gatherings to crowds surrounding ancient tombs. Swipe to delve into how various regions of the world celebrate the winter solstice!

Image From: Second Face Museum of Cultural Masks

Guatemala: Santo Tomas Festival

  • The Santo Tomas Festival was created to honor Saint Thomas

  • Even though the church moved the date of the feast day for Saint Tomas to July 3rd in Chichicastenango, Guatemala still celebrates on December 21st

  • It is a festival full of vibrant masks, colors and full of dance.

  • Its most famous event is the Palo Voladores (Pole Flyers), where people dress as characters (such as monkeys and jaguars) and climb a tall pole, tie a rope, then jump off the pole.

Japan: Toji

  • The winter solstice in Japan is called Toji

  • During Toji, winter squash called kabocha is eaten and a hot bath with yuzu citrus fruits are taken to refresh the body and mind

  • The tradition of the yuzu bath is expanded to capybaras, and many zoos will throw fruit into the warm waters of the capybaras enclosures to soak them

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Scandinavia: St. Lucia Day

  • In Scandinavia, St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13th, which is the day of the winter solstice according to the old calendar.

  • St. Lucia Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season with a ceremony of women wearing white robes, red sashes, and wreaths of candles on their heads, lighting the way through winter darkness.

China: Dōngzhì

  • The Dōngzhì festival, which occurs in December from the 21st to the 23rd, has been celebrated for thousands of years.

  • The holiday marks the end of the harvest season, and is celebrated with family gatherings, and meals including rice balls called tang yuan.

  • Dōngzhì also has a strong connection to the Chinese concept of yin and yang: it is believed that after the winter solstice, the darkness of the winter will be balanced out by the light of the sun.

The Hopi Tribe: Soyal

  • Celebrated by the Hopi tribe in what is now northern Arizona

  • This celebration of the winter solstice is part of kachina, their religious tradition of celebrating natural spirits.

  • They host a ceremony with dancing, gifts, prayer, singing, and storytelling

  • The people also make prayer sticks and kachina dolls (pictured)

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Iran: Shab-e Yalda

  • Yalda means “birth” and it is a celebration of light’s victory over darkness during the winter solstice

  • Families gather and candles are lit throughout the night, accompanied by poetry and feasting.

  • Foods typically eaten are nuts and fruits, stemming from a legend that eating these “fruits of summer” protects you from the sickness winter brings

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Ireland: Newgrange Gathering

  • A 5,200-year old tomb are perfectly aligned with the winter solstice, where a small opening above the entrance floods with light during the many sunrises of the solstice, gradually illuminating the chamber, lasting 17 minutes

  • The reason for why the tomb was created is unknown, however some theories say that it marks the start of a new year and the victory of light over darkness

  • Today, people can apply for a lottery to be in the temple during the sunrise, while others gather outside the monument


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