|Also known as the Winter Solstice, this occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. This year that happens on December 21st at 08:28 AM PST. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight.
Use the Sunrise and Sunset calculator to find the number of daylight hours during the December solstice in cities worldwide.
The sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere during the December solstice. It also marks the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours for those living south of the equator. Those living or traveling south from the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the midnight sun during this time of the year.
On the contrary, for an observer in the northern hemisphere, the December solstice marks the day of the year with the least hours of daylight. Those living or traveling north of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole will not be able to see the sun during this time of the year.
Depending on the tradition, various groups celebrate the longest night of the year in various fashions. Sexual ribaldry is common, as is the giving of gifts and receiving of same. The decorating of homes with a sacrificed evergreen tree, draped with gold or silver tinsel or garland, and festooned with various decorations is always appropriate. Generally a Pentagram is placed at the top of the tree, and strings of lights (LED are recommended) are wrapped around the tree, top to bottom in many colors or a single color depending on the taste of the decorator or the theme decided upon. Other decorations, such as sprigs of holly or mistletoe are placed about the home and a wreathe of evergreen decorated with the aforementioned plants and colored ribbon greets one on the door.
A reenactment of the battle between the two identical twin kings, the Holly (for winter) and the Oak (for summer) is performed with the Holly King being victorious. If children are present, a visit by Santa Claus bearing a bag of presents is appropriate. Mostly the time is spent feasting.
What of particularly Pagan themed celebrations? Well, everything I’ve mentioned thus far is derived from Paganisms past. Really, what more do you want?
A tradition we began when we lived in Santa Cruz was to save all of the holiday greenery (the tree, the evergreen garlands, the wreath etc.), and store them until Imbolc, where we would burn them on the beach Imbolc evening. If they were sufficiently dried out by then, they made quite a spectacular fire, and were thus recycled.
The Druid Vision of the Perfect World
Performed by Gypsy, on their album Enchantress
Lyrics by Gwydion Pendderwen