How To Mark The Winter Solstice
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How To Mark The Winter Solstice

The shortest day of the year is a time to set intentions for the new season

If it feels particularly dark tomorrow, that’s because it’s the shortest day of the year – also known as the winter solstice. People living in the northern hemisphere will experience the fewest daylight hours of the year, marking the first day of winter while those in the southern hemisphere celebrate the start of summer. But it’s not all doom and gloom: the days will start getting longer and brighter going forwards – and all over the world, people mark the winter solstice with traditions and rituals designed to celebrate nature. Here’s how to get involved.

What Is The Winter Solstice?

The winter solstice marks the 24-hour period with the fewest daylight hours of the year, and the first official day of winter. It occurs every December when the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky, as a result of the Earth’s axis tilting towards or away from the sun. 

The word ‘solstice’ is derived from the Latin ‘solstitium’, which translates as ‘sun stands still’. Historically, the day has significance in many cultures, such as Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome, often symbolising rebirth and our connection to the natural world.

When Is The Winter Solstice 2023?

This year, in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice will take place on Friday 22 December, beginning at 3.27am GMT. In London, the day will then last for seven hours, 49 minutes and 42 seconds.

How To Celebrate The Winter Solstice

Go For A Winter Walk

Solstices are all about connecting with nature, so use the day as an excuse to get out for a lovely winter walk somewhere green. Just be sure to get out before it gets dark!

Woman in yoga pose

Do Some Yoga

Yoga studios often create special winter solstice classes focused on grounding, restorative flows. These usually involve Surya Namaskars (sun salutations), designed to symbolise greeting the sun as it returns to the sky, alongside specific poses that fall in alignment with the Sagittarius-Capricorn shifts in the zodiac. Check out whether your local studio is doing anything – or find an online sequence.

Set Intentions

New Year may be the traditional time for goal setting, but many use the winter solstice as a time to consider what they’d like to let go of and set intentions for the season ahead. This could be done with a simple meditation or through some journalling. Better still if this is done in candlelight, a key symbol of the winter solstice which represents bringing warmth and light into our homes.

Take A Trip To Stonehenge

Perhaps the world’s most famous pre-historic monument, Stonehenge is inherently connected to the winter solstice. It’s thought that the stones were constructed to align with the movements of the sun, therefore framing both the winter and the summer solstice. This means it’s a popular day to go and visit: entry is free from around 7.45am until 10am on 22 December 2023. Alternatively, you can tune into the sunrise livestream via the official Stonehenge or English Heritage Facebook page.

dorchester chestnut and cherry yule log

Make A Yule Log

The yule log is a classic festive treat, but did you know its origins lie in a pagan tradition? For many centuries, people observed Yule, a festival commemorating the winter solstice. It’s thought celebrations would involve burning a large log, and over the years this developed into a tradition of making a roulade-style cake decorated to look like a log. Why not whizz one up for Christmas? We have a recipe here.