Today, December 21, 2014 is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year north of the Equator. Tonight will be the longest night of the year. This year’s winter solstice will begin at 6:03 p.m. EST (3:03 P.M. PST). When the sun is exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn tonight, it will happen at 23:03 UTC. From earth, its position makes it seem to stand still. Solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which means the sun stands still.
One of the most famous celebrations of the winter solstice takes place in the ancient ruins of Stonehenge, England. Thousands of people gather to chant, dance, and sing until sunrise. The all night vigil is to make certain that the sun will rise again at the end of the longest night. Another custom is to burn a Yule log or to bake a yule log-shaped cake. If you have a fireplace, build a fire in it or if you have no fireplace, light a special candle. Since the solstice symbolizes the regeneration of life with the longer days beginning, celebrations with feasting are common. The Caribbean tradition is a street festival and masquerade similar to our Mardi Gras.
Solstice celebrations and traditions would make an interesting backdrop for a short story or a chapter in a novel.
Are you celebrating the winter solstice? I am lighting candles.