Winter Solstice – Appreciating Rich Traditions

Winter Solstice – Appreciating Rich Traditions

Happy Winter Solstice 2023!


At 360°kids, we are dedicated to fostering a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion within our organization and community. As part of our ongoing commitment to education and understanding, we are excited to delve into the significance of the Winter Solstice. This natural phenomenon holds immense beauty and cultural importance, and it is crucial for us to recognize that not everyone shares the same celebrations, such as Christmas, Hannukah, or Kwanzaa. Additionally, the Winter Solstice holds deep significance for First Nations people, who have a rich tradition of honoring this celestial event. By exploring and appreciating the diverse ways in which the Winter Solstice is celebrated, we can deepen our understanding of different cultures and foster a more inclusive environment for all.   

December 21st is marked this year as the shortest day and longest night of the year with the sun being farthest from the Equator in the Norther Hemisphere, and it’s called the Winter Solstice. It is observed across different time zones, at 10:27 PM EST this year. Summer and Winter solstice exist to mark the days of summer and winter where the hours of the sun facing the Earth are distinctively longest and shortest comparative to all other days of the year. Winter solstice is the start of winter and it also means the return of more sunlight. It only gets brighter from here!

From an astronomical standpoint, you can watch a video about What is a Solstice here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btcTfor-j-c

Significance of Winter Solstice on Turtle Island (North America)

Solstice is immensely significant to many First Nations and Indigenous nations across Turtle Island to observe and appreciate the relationship with the cosmos that affect and connect us. It is part of the way of measuring the days, following the 13 moons, instead of utilizing the Gregorian Calendar. It is often worked into teachings about the natural and universal laws. Some hold special ceremonies to observe this celestial event and have stories told by Elders that bring teachings about slowing down in the winter months, about the land, nature and the Creator.

Many continue to practice and maintain teachings, while different nations are working toward Indigenous resurgence to revive them as colonialism forcibly removed and erased these teachings, practices and ceremonies from Indigenous nations. As such, it is a decolonial act for Indigenous people to acknowledge and connect with their traditional practices and ceremonies during this time. You can read more about 14 ways to observe this special day here: https://ndncollective.org/acknowledging-the-winter-solstice-is-a-decolonial-act-for-indigenous-people/

It’s important to note that hundreds of Indigenous nations exist on Turtle Island and each nation and tribe may have different stories and significant relationship to the Winter Solstice.

Here’s a brief video of What the Winter Solstice Means in the Cree tradition, told by an Elder:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX5F9zRYfQ0

For Anishinaabe, the beginning of winter – the New Year – is the full moon after solstice and this is when they hold a ceremony, feast and sing and talk about why they’re having the ceremony.

There are many celebratory events happening across Canada, including the Kensington Market Winter Solstice Festival in downtown Toronto, and the Annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival in Vancouver.

Global Celebrations and Observance

Winter solstice is particularly special and represents so much more in many cultures and traditions around the world for Indigenous nations globally, and from England (Stonehenge gathering, Burning the Clocks, Montol Festival), Chinese traditions (Dongzhi), South Korean traditions (Dongji), Japan (Toji), to Scandinavia (Saint Lucia Day), Ireland (Newgrange gathering), Iran (Shab-e Yalda) and Guatemala (Santo Tomas Festival). Many ancient structures are built to directly observe the trajectory of the sun and they reflect the astronomical star locations that also mark the significance of winter solstice. You can read brief descriptions of the cultural festivals and traditions here: https://www.rd.com/list/winter-solstice-traditions/

Regardless of where you find yourself today, the energies tied to such a significant celestial event that only happens once a year are certainly in the air. Here’s to having more sunlight to our days as we turn the leaf toward a new year!

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