I’ve always wanted to celebrate the winter solstice because of the religious symbolism. It’s the day of the year with the least amount of daylight, which usually falls on  Dec 21 —  for those of us that live in the northern Hemisphere. The earth’s axis is tilted the furthest away from the sun and hence we get the least amount of light. After the winter solstice, each day is a little brighter.

If you live north of the arctic circle — towards the north pole, you won’t t have any daylight at all today — no sun. Poor Santa, he should live in the south pole. (if you are at the south pole, you will see the sun all day and night — even at midnight you will see the sun)

In ancient times the winter solstice was a great festival celebration of rebirth. Hugh Nibley wrote a little essay about it, called “The Christmas Quest.” — this “was the great year-rite, the celebration of the creation of the world and the dramatization of a plan for overcoming the bondage of death.” It is the plan of salvation — the plan to return to that state of happiness before the fall.

It was celebrated with re-enactments of the creation drama, the story of Adam and Eve — the Garden of Eden — the lamb and the lion living in peace — the remembrance of a time past when things were good (before the fall).

“A dimly remembered but blessed time in the beginning when all creatures lived together in innocence without fear or enmity, when the heavens poured forth ceaseless bounty, and all men were brothers under the loving rule of the King and Creator of all.” (Nibley, Eloquent Witness, p 125)

Long dark days, and then, the return of the Son, so-to-speak, as the days get longer and we get incremental minutes of sunlight.

“Christmas is a small light in a great darkness; it is evidence of things not seen. It is not the real thing, but the expression of a wish, for like the great year-rites of the ancients it merely dramatizes what once was and what men feel they can still hope for.” (Nibley, ibid)

Unfortunately, Christmas passes, and we get back to the world. But for a few weeks each year people exhibit the hope, even believing in the unbelievable Santa Claus, even encouraging children to set out cookies for good ole’ Saint Nick.

6 Ways to celebrate the winter solstice:

1.  Read the creation story —  Three sources give an account of the creation story

Gustave Dore — Creation of Light

2. Talk about the Plan of Salvation — we all have need for a savior

Adam and Eve were devastated when they lost their skins of light, and became naked. They didn’t even know if the sun would shine when night fell upon them in the lone and dreary world. The savior marks the only chance to return to the light. The darkness of the winter solstice marks the day the sun (son) returns. It foreshadows the future day when He will return. Each year we have a cosmological reminder. The son saves the just and the unjust. He was born, He was resurrected, He will return. Whatever your belief, look with faith to a brighter day. I believe the plan of salvation is much more complicated than this diagram:

The plan of salvation

3.  Light a candle

Do something kind for someone, or share one of  those tender mercies from the Lord. How has the light of Christ affected you today?


how to celebrate the winter solstice

4.  Enjoy an outdoor yule log bonfire

Traditions abound about the yule log — the Christmas log.  One tradition says the family would cut down the biggest tree to bring into the house, and put the stump end into the open hearth fire, letting the rest of the log hang out.  This would ensure a long burn for maximum warmth. That’s the way my mom’s dad burned his logs — she says gramps would have part of the log hanging out and he would shove it into the fireplace as it burned. I guess that saves splitting logs.

We tried the fire pit yule tide one year — it was great fun. Though we did have to keep the young grandkids from wanting to pull sticks out of the fire.

The Brits have traditions that say the yule log had to be lit with a remnant of the log from the previous year — and that this would bring good luck to the family. The remnant would be saved all year for prosperity and protection from evil. So if you want to plan for next year — save something from this year’s log. And according to one story, you keep it under your bed.

We forgot to do that.

5.  Gather some mistletoe

Mistletoe was used as a symbol of evergreen in the dead of winter. That’s because it grows on tree branches even after the tree has lost all it’s leaves. It’s really an unwanted invader. But, it has some symbolic history related to the winter solstice.



6.  Make a chocolate Yule log called, Buche de Noel

Common in France on Christmas eve, is the Buche de Noel — a cake in the shape of a yule log. There are many recipes for this confection, and each cake looks different. Some have little meringue mushrooms on them, some have leaves, some have moss looking candy or nuts (often pistachios), some have little elves and forest animals around them. I’m sure your kids would help with this one. My daughter decorated my birthday cake one year with bits of leaves, flowers and even grass she pulled up in the back yard. Here’s some fancy logs:


yule logTiramasu Yule Log