The winter solstice (or hibernal solstice), also known as midwinter, is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. In the Southern Hemisphere this is the June solstice, falling on June 21st at 2:23pm AEST this year.
But why is it the shortest day of the year?
“It all comes down to the fact that the Earth is tilted at about 23 degrees,” explains Geraint Lewis, Professor of Astrophysics at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy. “So what happens is that orientation in space is fixed, and at some point the top of the Earth is closer to the Sun than the bottom. We are at the point where the Southern Hemisphere is further from the Sun.” (1)
The word 'solstice' means 'Sun still’ – meaning that the sun stops it’s journey away from us. From today the days will get longer as the Earth continues to orbit- with our hemisphere moving closer to our life-giving sun each day as it approaches our Summer Solstice in December- typically known as the longest day of the year, or Litha.
In ancient tradition in many areas of the world, both were celebrated as times of birth and rebirth- celebrating the cycles of growth and then decay, which makes way for new growth. The winter solstice, or Yule as it was commonly known was the time of the ‘Winter Goddess’ in many ancient cultures. If you recognise the word Yule, it’s because like many religious/pagan holiday overlaps, ancient traditions were kept and transmuted to the new faith as they were just too ingrained in the culture to let them go. As we are on the opposite side of the world, Yule falls in June. Yule itself comes from the Norse or Viking word for ‘Wheel’ and this was how the holiday was represented. The Vikings especially saw the world and time as a giant wheel, ever-turning- evident in the cycles of nature all around them. The spokes of this wheel were their celebrations- the solstices and the equinoxes.
Yule is considered the ‘seed time’ of the year in these ancient cultures- the longest night and shortest day, where the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and gives birth to the new sun king, who rules over the world the other half of the year and allows growth and harvest to happen. It is from the dark of winter that new hope and new life springs- and this was often celebrated with bonfires and seasonal fruit (such as apples) and ground vegetables- a nod to the fact that although we were in the middle of winter it held promise for the coming spring- that under the ground life was starting to spring again and we would soon see the cold move away and the time of ‘rebirth’ begin.
To this day, the solstice is still celebrated as a time of rebirth and newness and preparing for the Spring and Summer. It’s also thought to be the best time to catch that amazing early sunset- so make sure you’re warm and get yourself a good vantage point- nature always puts on a hell of a show! Our PEG Nature Playgroup that we hold for our children each week is holding a bonfire celebration with apple treats and songs, and of course, in NSW we have a huge event each year- The Winter Magic Festival, held in Katoomba next weekend.
The Winter Magic Festival is a free, annual community event, celebrated around the winter solstice in Katoomba. During the event, the main street of Katoomba is closed to motor traffic and open to pedestrian traffic. It is the Blue Mountain's highest profile and most anticipated annual event and is a Not-For-Profit event that is self-supporting and is run entirely by community volunteers. It is a weekend when artists, musicians, dancers, drummers, choirs, stalls and the community take over one of Australia's most famous towns.
(Image Source: kirinari.com.au)
We cannot wait to see everyone on the day- it’s always packed with colourful people, music, food and drink and the best street performers and market stall you’ve ever seen- it’s literally the main street of Katoomba converted into a festival! There is a strong sense of sustainability in this community, and many like-minded people travel from far and wide to attend and share a celebration of life and our planet. It’s set to be a great weekend and we hope to see you there!
Of course, there’s also our amazing Solstice Sale- simply enter the code SolsticeSale17 at checkout and you will receive a huge 30% off your order- but be quick! The sale ends at Midnight Sunday 25th June 2017. It’s our second-biggest discount ever on our site so be sure to stock up and take advantage of the solstice savings!
So, with that, we’re off to warm the Apple Cider in preparation for this seasonal celebration! Have a Happy Solstice Eco Wrappers!
You can find more information on The Winter Magic Festival at the event website or via their Facebook page.
(1: Source: Australian Geographic)