Happy Winter Solstice 2011!

Winter Solstice is just about here, in the Northern Hemisphere — Our longest night and shortest day of the year, when Winter will officially begin at 5:30 a.m., Coordinated Universal Time, on Dec. 22 (12:30 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, 9:30 p.m. 12/21 on the U.S. West Coast.) At that moment, the sun will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. For the many who yearn for longer days, this is the cheering moment they start coming back, little by little, as the North Pole gradually begins to tilt closer to the sun. (I truly enjoy the whole year as it occurs.) Of course, those in the Southern Hemisphere are celebrating their Summer Solstice and their longest, sunniest day. This is a great site that explains how the Solstice occurs.

This link illuminates cultural and religious celebrations from around the world that mark the Winter Solstice, the year’s longest night, and the return of the light. I was interested to learn that the ancient Roman 7-day festival, the Saturnalia, sometimes slipped into debauchery, but also included the postponing of war. Locally, (and currently), in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a wonderful Winter Solstice celebration in the Muir Woods that my family has attended many times. It occurs rain or shine, and will take place Wednesday, Dec. 21, at Muir Woods National Monument, from 3-8 p.m. The event, which is free with a park entrance fee, includes Winter woods-inspired crafts, such as making Solstice crowns; singing, storytelling, and a shadow puppet show; hot chocolate for purchase; and the beautiful ancient Redwood-lined trails of the park lit with luminaria, and often ringing with the voices of choral performers. Attendees should dress warmly, bring flashlights and prepare to have fun. Perhaps there’s a Solstice celebration in your area. Let us know!

Photo – Burning Sun Wheel at Winter Solstice: Thomas W. Fiege/Schandolf

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