Winter Solstice: Ways To Celebrate The Longest Night Of The Year

Anne Kennedy

Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year as well as the shortest day of the year, and traditionally, the festival has also been used to celebrate the sun's return to the Northern Hemisphere and the promise of warmer days to come.

— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) December 21, 2014

While the solstice was traditionally celebrated only by pagans, there are ways everyone can celebrate, no matter which religion they observe. National Geographic News observes that "Pagans aren't alone in commemorating the winter solstice in modern times."

While human sacrifice took place each winter during the solstice celebration of Ancient Greece's Lenaea festival, there's no reason to spill blood. Modern festivals focus on merriment, meditation, and the beginning of the winter season. Here are a few fun, simple ways to make the most of winter solstice in your own way.

— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 21, 2014

Light a Yule log. Believed to have its origins in Germanic paganism, the lighting of the Yule log is a traditional winter solstice practice that's now popular throughout Europe. In the event you have no fireplace, commemorate the long winter night by lighting a special candle and spending time with family and friends, or baking a special yule log-shaped cake.

— Downton Abbey (@DowntonAbbey) December 20, 2014

Share a festive meal. Gathering together with friends to share favorite foods is rooted in several winter solstice traditions. Because solstice also symbolizes the regeneration of life as longer days begin, it has long been celebrated with feasting. Religious site Patheos offers a number of traditional solstice recipes to try.

— Becca Stacey (@BluebellMoonTea) November 10, 2014

Dress up in costumes. What better way to celebrate winter solstice than by following the Caribbean tradition of Junkunoo, which is a street festival and masquerade that's similar to Mardi Gras. The Slavic holiday Karachun celebrates the ancient festival of Koleda, during which children dressed up in costumes to visit neighboring houses and sing wishes of good luck. Like some other Yule traditions, this winter solstice tradition includes the giving of gifts. Christmas caroling? Trick-or-treating? It's a little bit of both.

— Sloris (@sloris3d) December 17, 2014

Start celebrating Christmas. The Examiner points out that no one is really certain when Jesus was born, and this date is the perfect one for celebrating with a tree, lights, a blazing fire, music, and festive foods. So hang the mistletoe, share wishes for peace and prosperity with the ones you love, and make merry.

— Longwood Gardens (@longwoodgardens) December 19, 2014