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Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere) 2023

Authored by British Online Archives
Published on 22nd December, 2023 1 min read

Winter Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)

For those living north of the equator, today (22/12/2023) marks the Winter Solstice: the point at which the northern hemisphere is tilted furthest from the sun. This produces the shortest day and longest night of the year. It has acquired much cultural significance. In both hemispheres, “Midwinter” — as it is often known — has long been celebrated via prayers, festivals, and feasting. In ancient Rome, “Saturnalia” marked the year’s “rebirth”. “Role reversals” were common, whereby masters, servants, and enslaved people dined together. In fact, it is believed that key aspects of this pagan festival, such as the custom of gift giving, influenced later Christian traditions, such as Christmas. 

In the UK, many still gather to celebrate “Yule” (a pagan solstice tradition) at sacred sites such as Stonehenge. The Native American Hopi and Zuni tribes observe “Soyal” — they pray, dance, and engage in purification rituals. In China, the winter festival of “Dongzhi” is celebrated through family gatherings, the preparation of rice wine, and cooking foods such as dumplings or “Tangyuan” (a dessert made from rice). 

To all those celebrating today, BOA wishes you a very happy Winter Solstice!

Authored by British Online Archives

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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