By Jamye W.

The Return of Light

Archaeological evidence has shown that even before the days of recorded history people have marked or celebrated the Winter Solstice. As the earth revolves around the sun and the Northern Hemisphere reaches its farthest distance from the sun, that part of the world experiences the shortest day of the year on or around December 21. Each day after that until Midsummer’s Day the days will grow longer and nights shorter.

People from many cultures throughout the millennia have found ways to gather and celebrate the returning light. Unsurprisingly, each of them centers on light or fire in some form.  

In many European countries, the burning of a Yule log played a central part in the celebration. Sometimes an entire tree was chosen and cut down for this purpose.

In Cornwall, England there is a dancing procession of lights and lanterns creating a “river of fire” to honor the returning light. In Scandinavia, St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice. It includes a young woman wearing a crown of candles. 

Near the Arctic Circle, people frequently gather for ice skating and other winter activities and to watch the new sunrise heralding the beginning of longer days. 

In Newgrange, Ireland there is a monument that aligns with the rays of the rising sun on Winter Solstice, while the more famous Stonehenge aligns with the setting of the sun on that day.  

The Hopi Nation, located in modern-day Arizona, marks that day with costumed dancers, feasts, and gifts for children.  

Each of them found ways to celebrate the hope and promise of the lengthening daylight.

If you would like to incorporate some fun activities around this season, here are a few ideas:

If you would like to learn more about the history and traditions of the Winter Solstice, here are a few books available at EVPL:

Books from our children’s collection include:

However you celebrate may you have a safe and happy holiday.

Jamye W.

Jamye W.

With 8 locations throughout Vanderburgh County, EVPL is ready to discover, explore, and connect WITH you! We encourage you to uncover new things, revisit old favorites, and to engage with us along the way.

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