Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

We have seen enough winter season’ already! Today is winter solstice day. Solstice-in Latin “sol” means sun and “sistere” means to stand still. The winter solstice happens on the 21st or the 22nd of December. It is on this day when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, which means less light for us in the Northern Hemisphere. This means today we get the shortest day – and the longest night of the year.  In fact, right around December 21st of every year, the Sun reaches its lowest point above the horizon. After that, it begins to rise again, and take a longer path through the sky. After today, the days well begin to grow longer and the nights will get shorter. The length of our day is affected not by our distance from the sun but the tilt of Earth’s axis. The axis is an imaginary line running from Earth’s North Pole to its south pole that rotates around. Many cultures have some sort of celebrations shortly after winter solstice. Some of them  that I collected from web
  • The Welsh word for solstice translates as “the point of roughness.”
  • The Talmud calls it “Tekufat Tevet,” first day of “the stripping time.”
  • For the Chinese, winter’s beginning is “dongzhi,” when one tradition is making balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize family gathering.
  • In Korea, these balls are mingled with a sweet red bean called pat jook.
  • In parts of Scandinavia, the locals smear their front doors with butter so that Beiwe, sun goddess of fertility, can lap it up before she continues on her journey.
  • In Japan, young men known as “sun devils,” their faces daubed to represent their imagined solar ancestry, still go among the farms to ensure the earth’s fertility.
  • In Ireland, people called wren-boys take to the roads, wearing masks or straw suits. The practice used to involve the killing of a wren, and singing songs while carrying the corpse from house to house.
  • In areas of northern Pakistan, men have cold water poured over their heads in purification, and are forbidden to sit on any chair till the evening.
  • Purification is also the main object for the Zuni and Hopi tribes of North America, their attempt to recall the sun from its long winter slumber. It also marks the beginning of another turning of their “wheel of the year,” and kivas (sacred underground ritual chambers) are opened to mark the season.
  • Christmas is one of the most globally recognized mid-winter celebrations in Northern hemisphere.
  • In India, Makara Sankranti is celebrated at the beginning of Uttarayana (Sanskrit meaning sun traveling towards the north on the celestial sphere). Bhogi bonfires are set up every nook and corner of the streets early in the morning on the previous day of Makara Sankranti. Special offerings to the Sun God and special pujas are performed as thanksgiving for the harvest; special foods are prepared to keep the body warm. Different regions celebrate this festival with different names like Lohri, bihu, pongal etc.
Whatever way you celebrate, enjoy the shortest day of the year; don't forget that longer days are ahead starting tomorrow!

"Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart."
-Victor Hugo


  1. Can't publish my nameDecember 23, 2011

    Fantastic article; we always admire your research and its timeliness.

  2. Thank you for your admirable comment!


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