In the Northern Hemisphere the 2022 winter solstice will occur on December 21st. Winter solstice is when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the sun. At this time, the Arctic Circle is cloaked in darkness and the longest night of the year happens. The winter solstice also signifies a turning point where the days begin gradually to get longer again.
A Global Celebration
Many cultures around the world have a long history of celebrating the winter solstice. Cultures attach great meaning to the solstices because the sun is a sacred star at the center of the solar system. The sun not only serves as a function of time, but it also sets the weather and indicates agricultural patterns, which were extremely important for historical civilizations.
In South America, the Inti Raymi festival reigns supreme for celebrating the solstices. Inti Raymi honors the Inca sun god Inti. There is much fanfare with music, drums, dancing, and elaborate costumes. Thousands of people gather to watch a massive procession take over the city of Peru. Fixation on the Stonehenge monument in Wiltshire, England continues to spark interest during this time of year. Along with music and costumes, many winter solstice traditions incorporate the use of food to bring families and communities together. For example, the Chinese Dongzhi festival is known for tangyuan, a rice dumpling filled with black sesame paste.
More importantly though, the winter solstice provides an opportunity for introspection. Not only is it a time to gather with friends, family, and members of the community to share delicious meals, but it is also a time to reflect inwardly on one’s own thoughts and feelings. No matter where you are when the sun rises on December 22, take a moment to breathe deeply and reflect on the past year.
Each year presents its own struggles. Acknowledging the hardships that have been overcome and remaining resolute with your eyes on the future will surely lead to much sunshine and happiness in the coming year. Learn more about Winter Solstice in National Geographic online, written by Michael Greshko.
Note: This blog was updated from 2021.