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Winter Solstice Celebrations

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Actually, it's a big deal.


The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere, the official start of winter, start of when days of sunlight start getting longer and the moment where the earth's rotation puts the Northern Hemisphere farthest from the sun. 


What you might not know is how this even has become a major celebration...across cultures around the world, and for thousands of years.


It actually traces back to about 10,000 BC where researchers believe humans, towards the end of the stone ages, observed and recognized this event. It's not really a surprise, ancient peoples and cultures depended on precise knowledge of seasonal cycles to survive. 

Whew...talk about all of us having something in common with our ancestors. Across most cultures around the world, the Winter Solstice was marked with elaborate ceremonies and celebrations. Each different and aligned with their culture. Whether it was Europe, Asia, North American natives, Mid-East or elsewhere...it was recognized and celebrated. 


The recognition from our ancestors, regardless of location and specific culture, may be the one common ground we all have.


More fun, are the feasts, parties and celebrations that are directly tied into this event. Fire and light are the traditional symbols for the Winter Solstice. Of course, no electricity back then, so this transition of the earth towards the sun was a darn good reason to celebrate. 


The Romans, of course always up for a hedonistic event, packed in several celebrations and feasts that would last over a week. Businesses and schools would close (yes, that's from a couple thousand years ago) to ensure near everyone could celebrate. 

The Norse of Scandinavia made the celebrations last through January. It started the tradition of Yule logs, which may be different that what you'd expect. Father and sons would search forests for the largest logs they could find, bring them home and set fire to one end. The celebration would last until the log burned out, which could take two weeks.


Several famous monuments in Great Britain, Scotland and Ireland (Stonehenge, Maeshowe and Newrange) are oriented towards the winter solstice sunsets, leading many archeologists to believe they were constructed to recognize and honor this event.


The Incas would arise before dawn to gather at their tribal plaza for the sunrise. They offered cups of Chicha (sacred beer from fermented corn) as the sun rose from the horizon.


Not a surprise, but beer and like spirits were always a part of the major celebrations.


So, at any point today...hold a glass up and toast to our ancestors that recognized the value of a collection celebration and passed it along. 


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