Whether you’re a night owl or early bird, December 21st is a day to be reckoned with.
One of the most important events in the solar cycle, the winter solstice marks the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere – the day the sun travels the shortest path through the sky, and day we have the fewest hours of sunlight all year.
Indeed, we’ve been celebrating the solstice (solstice, in Latin, meaning the sun standing still) and honouring the change in seasons with rituals and traditions since day dot – with thoughts turning to what the returning sun will bring, and anticipation of a new dawn.
To cheer the longest night, here are some satisfying things you can do to celebrate the solstice…
1. Watch the sunrise
In Ireland and the UK the sun will rise at 8.03am on Dec 21st, which means there’s plenty of time to get to the nearest park or open space and cherish those first rays of sunlight and wonderful sense of wellbeing.
2. Mark the moment
It is an ancient tradition to light lots of candles – for the much-needed flame and to salute the sun. This could be just the right time to make a centrepiece with pillar candles, which will look that much lovelier framed with pine cone decorations or a holly garland.
3. Decorate a yule tree
An old pagan ritual was to decorate an outdoor fir with candles and baubles to symbolise the sun, moon and stars. For sure, you’ll have done this indoors, so why not have a hunt around for any leftover decos and hang a few ornaments on bare trees in the garden, or evergreen shrubs.
4. Bake a chocolate log
Such was this Nordic tradition, firewood from a whole tree would burn for the 12 days of Christmas to celebrate the solstice. Luckily, you don’t need an open fireplace to bake a chocolate Yule log.
5. Sow a secret garden
December is the perfect time to plant vegetable seeds such as broad beans, lettuce and mustard greens which can handle the lower temperatures – and think of the whoops of delight when the first shoots make themselves known.
6. String up more fairy lights
This is the one day of the year when more means more, and those twinkling lights will be all set to steal the show at 15.53, when darkness falls. Just in time for a hot cuppa and slice of delicious homemade cake with thickly piped chocolate icing. Yum!