Celebrating Winter Solstice! The Folklore, Facts & Fun

by Suzan Ferreira
Winter Solstice It's My Sustainable Life

By celebrating winter solstice and fitting it into our hectic holiday season, we become more reflective and celebrate the magical beauty of the season.


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Winter Solstice has traditionally been celebrated around the world by honoring earth’s seasonal cycles for millennia.  Today it is an opportunity to reconnect to nature, community, and family.  By incorporating Winter Solstice celebrations into our hectic holiday season, we become more reflective and celebrate the magical beauty of the season.

Winter Solstice, also called hibernal solstice, marks the beginning of winter.  It is astronomically defined as the shortest day of the year with the least amount of daylight and the longest night.  The word solstice itself comes from the Latin word “sol stetit”, literally meaning “sun stands still”.  It is the celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun.

Winter Solstice Full Moon

It begins the moment the Northern Hemisphere is pointed the farthest from the sun.  This typically falls around the week of Christmas time. When the solstice happens to fall on a full moon, the event becomes even more auspicious. The full moon during this time is known as “The Cold Moon” or “Long Nights Moon” as it is called by some native Americans tribes, giving a nod to winter solstice.

Although it has not been determined exactly when solstice celebrations began, we do know that for centuries humans have been worshipping the sun.  Stonehenge is probably the most famous example of this.  This prehistoric monument is believed by many to have been built for just this purpose due to its precise alignment with the sun.  Many today still celebrate Winter Solstice by visiting this site to sing, chant, practice yoga and kiss the stones.

Winter Solstice Stonehenge


Also known as “Yuletide“, is the pre-Christian Scandinavian festival celebrated by the historical Germanic peoples.  Joyful celebrations welcoming the return of the sun included bonfires burning in the fields, children going from house to house with gifts of apples and oranges (symbolizing the sun) spiked with cloves laid in baskets lined with evergreen boughs (symbolic of immortality), and wheat stocks (symbolic of the harvest) dusted with flour (symbolic of triumph, light, and life).

Most of today’s customs surrounding Yule are associated with Christmas.  Our more traditional Christmas decorations, a tree, holly, and candles, come from Yule.  The colors, red, white, green, silver and gold are stemmed from Yule.  The acts of decorating the tree, exchanging gifts to honoring Kris Kringle, aka Santa (the Germanic Pagan God of Yule) all come from Yule.


Feast of Juul a Scandinavian festival of fires being lit to symbolize the heat, light, and life-giving properties of the sun.

Dong Zhi Winter Festival a family Chinese celebration honoring the ancient thought of “yang“, the muscular, becoming stronger on this day.

Saturnalia, an ancient Rome celebration lasting seven days to honor the Roman god of harvest and agriculture, Saturnus.  Carnival-like festivities were held, grudges were forgiven, and wars were postponed.

Burning The Clocks is a more recent English tradition where thousands of people gather in Brighton, England, craft paper lanterns made of paper and willow, and carry them through the streets to the beach to burn them commemorating the end of the year.

In the true spirit of celebrating the Winter Solstice, focus on time spent with family and friends with love and laughter, and that every ending is a new beginning.  There are simple rituals and gatherings that can be planned to seal the bond and celebrate this magical time.


Making a Winter Solstice tree is simple, fun, and the wildlife will love you for it.  A  true inspiration for this is a wonderful read with beautiful illustrations by Ted Rand, “A Night Tree“, where a family goes into the night and decorates the trees for the woodland animals.

We can easily do the same.  Bring the family together and make a special night out of making some or all of these simple yet practical treats and decorations.

Adding Winter Berries To Outdoor Arrangements

I enjoy decorating all of my hangers and urns each fall with winter greens.  When available, I always make sure to add red winter berries to my arrangement as the Holiday Season approaches.  Birds will thank you, and as an added bonus, the berries draw the wildlife close for watching.

Apple Treats

Cut apples in half, butter the cut side with peanut butter, and press peanut butter side down in bird seed.  With threaded needle make a loop in the top of the apple so that it can be hung outside to be enjoyed by our feathered friends.

Popcorn And/Or Cranberry Garland

Pop some uncoated plain popcorn (enjoy a few bites) and string into long garland strands to hang in trees, bushes, and shrubs.  Better yet, make extra and use on your indoor tree as well!

String together fresh cranberries into a long garland.  Refrain from dried cranberries as most will have added sugars.  I like to slightly freeze the fresh berries, making it easier and less juicy to string together.

Combine the two into one garland alternating an inch of popcorn to a cranberry.  This makes a more beautiful garland, especially if it will be used indoors on your tree.

Citrus Garland

Oranges or lemons can simply be sliced to about 1/4 inch thick and hung by ribbon, twine, or string individually outside.

Celebrating Winter Solstice! The Folklore, Facts, And Fun image showing hand holding dried orange in front of window highlighting the coloring of the dried orange

Another option is to slice fruit, dehydrate or bake on low heat to dry, and string together.  A complete how-to tutorial for drying & decorating your own can be found at Making Dried Fruit Decorations.

Create Ice Candles

These fun and easy candle holders are simply beautiful when lit.  You can take a look at a great tutorial from Jessi at Practically Functional detailing all the how-tos.

Another option is to simply use mason jars with the rim and place a votive candle inside.  They can be hung, placed on tables or on the ground to light the way.

Gather Friends & Family For Winter Solstice

The BEST way to celebrate in my opinion is by gathering a few friends and family members together.  Make it a celebration!   

Celebrating Winter Solstice - The Folklore, Facts, & Fun pin for Pinterest
  • Decorate the outdoors together with all the festive decorations you’ve made.  
  • Place your ice candles out and light them.
  • Have an outdoor bonfire and gather around it serving homemade hot chocolate, connecting us to life and light.
  • Create a Solstice ritual.   Write down any activities, habits, or aspects of your life you want to let go of for the coming year.  Symbolically burn those intentions while speaking them out loud.  Not having a bonfire?  They can be hung on the tree instead.

However you choose to celebrate the solstice, with friends and family, gatherings or in solitary silence, let it be about honoring the gifts earth has to offer each of us.  Regardless of ethnicity, religious faith, or traditions, we share a commonality, Earth.  By celebrating the Solstice we illuminate those ties.

Happy Solstice!

Signature of Suzan from It's My Sustainable Life

This post was shared at the Homestead Blog Hop!

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Marilyn Lesniak December 27, 2020 - 3:17 am

Congratulations! Your post was my feature pick at #OverTheMoon this week. Each Hostess displays their own features so be sure to visit me on Sunday evening and to see your feature! I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please don’t forget to add your link numbers or post title so we can be sure to visit!

Sarita December 22, 2020 - 5:00 pm

Beautiful images and post, Suzan! Winter Solstice is an important celebration for the indigenous people in my area of northern Canada. Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop!

Kim | Shiplap and Shells December 22, 2020 - 4:53 am

Such a great post Suzan! Look for your feature at Charming Homes and Gardens on Wednesday.

Rachel Harper December 21, 2020 - 8:49 pm

Such a unique and interesting post. I learned so much. Look for your feature on Wednesday’s Charming Homes & garden Link party.
Merry Christmas.

Cindy Moore December 21, 2020 - 4:44 am

I love celebrations of all kinds! Your post is wonderful. I love the traditions from other countries and the activities you include. Timing wise, it’s perfect as tomorrow is the winter solstice!

Chelsea December 16, 2020 - 6:44 am

Lovely AND informative post! I think many forget where it all came from. It’s fascinating how Christmas has evolved. I love hearing the history, but also, how we can get in touch with it now, in 2020.

Keirsten December 14, 2020 - 10:32 pm

Great post. Another beautiful way to celebrate the seasonal changes. And another way to enjoy the cold weather and not hate it so much haha.

Robin December 17, 2019 - 3:31 pm

I love the ice candle idea! How pretty! We usually have a sledding party for New Years where I hang Christmas lights outside, but these are way cooler!

T.M. December 16, 2019 - 11:17 am

This was a fascinating read – thank you for sharing this. I love learning about backgrounds, meanings and historical relationships. I, like many, have never technically celebrated the changing of the seasons, but I do enjoy them and should pay more attention to them.

Laura Orange December 10, 2019 - 5:03 am

what a wonderful post! I especially love the ways to celebrate winter. What a wonderful blog, thanks for sharing!

Suzan Ferreira December 10, 2019 - 11:36 am

Thank you, Laura! I’m so pleased you enjoy it!!

Linda December 8, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Lovely post Suzan. Love the examples around the world. In fact, I am featuring your post today at Love Your Creaticity.

Lisa Lombardo December 8, 2019 - 4:06 pm

Lovely ideas! It’s wonderful to celebrate the customs of other countries and from history! Thanks for sharing on Farm Fresh Tuesdays, Suzan!

Tricia Snow December 7, 2019 - 11:47 pm

Interesting how many winter solstice traditions are Christmas traditions too!

Marilyn Lesniak December 5, 2019 - 4:43 pm

Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Happy Holiday!

Tracy December 4, 2019 - 3:26 pm

Growing up in Alaska, winter solstice was always a huge deal because it meant we’d start gaining daylight! Thanks for sharing the worldwide details!

Lisa December 4, 2019 - 7:39 am

Oh, I like the idea of creating ice candles! How beautiful!

Cindy December 8, 2019 - 4:49 am

Beautiful post! I love celebrating the seasonal changes. I tend to do solitary reflections but this winter solstice it would be fun to try something different!

Lisa December 4, 2019 - 6:11 am

The ice candles are beautiful! We love our fires, as well.

Christina Furnival December 4, 2019 - 4:46 am

Fun list of ideas to celebrate!

Kristen Allred December 3, 2019 - 6:35 pm

I was invited to a Yule Celebration this year and I’m glad to know more about the history of it!

Lisa Manderino December 3, 2019 - 5:59 pm

I love that we can take all these traditions and make them our own!

Heather December 3, 2019 - 3:46 pm

Your posts are always informative. I learn something new each time.

Pauline December 3, 2019 - 5:06 am

We always do a big bonfire and have a huge potluck. Last year we did sky lanterns

Suzan Ferreira December 3, 2019 - 11:28 am

Fun!! We enjoy our fires as well 🙂

Ramae Hamrin December 3, 2019 - 3:03 am

I’ve never celebrated winter solstice, and I’m not sure why. I think it’s important to honor the season that’s ending as well as the one that’s arriving. I absolutely love the ideas — especially the mason jars with candles in them and the bird treats. Beautiful post!

jody December 3, 2019 - 1:51 am

This was very intresting to read some of this I had no idea about. Guess that says I am kinda back word but I really liked reading about all of this different traditions.

Michelle December 2, 2019 - 10:42 pm

Thanks for all the info. I never celebrated the winter solstice before. I love all your ideas. I also love the info you gave on where some of our traditions originated from.

Michelle December 2, 2019 - 10:22 pm

Excellent post! While I don’t do much to celebrate Winter Solstice (or most other holidays for that matter), I do always acknowledge it. Were I prone to traditional celebrations, this would be one that I choose.

KENDRA December 2, 2019 - 8:21 pm

Great information. I love finding out where so many traditions have come from! We used to string the popcorn and cranberry garland but never knew the real purpose was for the outdoor animals. haha!

Jen December 2, 2019 - 8:19 pm

I learned so much from this post! Those candles really are beautiful!

Suzan Ferreira December 2, 2019 - 8:56 pm

And so easy to make! Thanks so much for stopping by Jen!

Noelle Collins December 2, 2019 - 8:10 pm

The ice candles are beautiful and I love the ideas about the treats for birds!

Candice December 2, 2019 - 7:37 pm

I didn’t know about a lot of these. Thanks for sharing!

Charlene December 2, 2019 - 7:12 pm

This was an interesting read! Thanks for teaching me some more about the winter solstice

Katherine Wolfe December 2, 2019 - 6:03 pm

Suzan: Interesting article filled with loads of info! I surely learned more than a few things about the Winter Solstice. I think I’ll look into the sweet-sounding book, A Night Tree, and also make some apple treats for our birds.

Suzan Ferreira December 2, 2019 - 7:05 pm

I’m so glad you found it informative Katherine! Love that you will be feeding the wildlife this solstice as a way to celebrate!

Jill DeMasi December 2, 2019 - 5:54 pm

Interesting to read about this. Thanks for sharing! I love those ice candles!

Darlene December 2, 2019 - 2:58 pm

Wonderful post Suzan! It’s interesting to learn about different traditions around the world and I think I will make the citrus garland this year! 🙂

Suzan Ferreira December 2, 2019 - 7:06 pm

I would love to see your garland when you finish! Thanks so much for reading.

Brianna December 2, 2019 - 2:12 pm

This is so great! I had a friend that celebrated winter solstice and what she has is do one year was to put our wishes on a log and burn the log. It was a fun activity and it was wonderful of her to share her culture with me. Thank you for this information.

Chrissy Gates December 2, 2019 - 1:47 pm

So much wonderful information! Of course being a former English teacher now school librarian (as well as travel agent/blogger!), I love the history and literature behind the solstice. Your pictures are beautiful, and the tutorials were most informative. P.S. I’m currently in the middle of a major snow storm. All schools are closed!

Suzan Ferreira December 2, 2019 - 7:07 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed it Chrissy! P.S. We are in a whiteout as we speak 🙂

Magan December 2, 2019 - 1:18 pm

I appreciate this post quite a bit, and I think I may use it to help explain some things to my children. We’re Christians, so this time of year is full of nativity and reminders of our Savior’s birth. Though we’ve talked with them about how Jesus wasn’t actually born in December, that’s just when we celebrate it, I think this article will help explain something of the reasons why we celebrate it now and not in June or July, when it was more likely to have occurred. It was more of, taking advantage of the time people were off and celebrating anyway. I think they’ll enjoy learning more about winter solstice in general. Thanks for sharing!

Suzan Ferreira December 2, 2019 - 7:10 pm

Thank you for your viewpoint Magan! It’s always fascinating to me how ancient belief systems have influenced organized religion today. I’m glad you found this of useful.

Agent 54 November 27, 2019 - 1:29 pm

Very Interesting. I don’t miss snow. Happy Solstice!

Suzan Ferreira November 29, 2019 - 12:21 pm

Thank you for reading! I’m looking forward to missing snow as well 🙂 Have a beautiful Solstice!

Holly Bird December 2, 2019 - 2:57 pm

I love this post! Winter is one of my favorite seasons..I love the folklore and ideals you share thank you for such a fun and educational read!

Suzan Ferreira December 2, 2019 - 7:06 pm

I’m so glad you enjoyed it Holly! Thank you for being such a supportive reader!

Joy Askew December 12, 2018 - 8:25 am

This is a wonderful article. I definitely learned some things I did not know about Winter Solstice and love the ideas you shared at the end. I love Winter Solstice. My husband and I live in an apartment so we put a small winter solstice tree on our balcony, then when winter is over we plant the tree on my sister and brother-in-law’s property.

Suzan Ferreira December 12, 2018 - 12:25 pm

Hi Joy~

What a beautiful way to honor the Solstice! Enjoy!

Catherine McGuinness December 12, 2018 - 3:24 am

I love the solstice. I’m in a Viking reenactment group and we celebrate Yule. It’s nice to see more people learning about where our modern traditions really come from.

Suzan Ferreira December 12, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Thank you, Catherine!

Tracy Foster December 11, 2018 - 9:03 pm

What an interesting read, loved it, shared it. I’ve been wanting to make citrus garland this year, but haven’t gotten to it yet.

Suzan Ferreira December 12, 2018 - 12:23 pm

Hi Tracy!

Thank you so much! I think I will be making the garland this year as well! Happy Solstice!

Kelly December 11, 2018 - 6:27 pm

LOVE THIS!!! We love to celebrate solstice in our family, to celebrate the return of the light and to simply share in gratitude for all we have. Recognizing the seasonal shift and the history and traditions behind Solstice is really a really lovely tradition. Thank you for sharing in all of the history, folklore and activities surrounding this special day.

Suzan Ferreira December 11, 2018 - 7:10 pm

Thank you, Kelly! Happy Solstice!

Desiree December 11, 2018 - 5:04 pm

I really liked the examples from around the world. Thank you for the origins of some of the traditions related to celebrating this time of year. I love crafts that are more natural and I definitely worship the sun!

Suzan Ferreira December 11, 2018 - 5:48 pm

Hi Desiree!

Thank you for your response! Right there with you on all fronts!

Kelsey December 11, 2018 - 4:46 pm

This is so great! I was just putting together a winters solstice blog myself. I’m super excited about the solstice this year, more so than Christmas even, and I have a women’s circle scheduled for that day. Thank you for all your tips!

Suzan Ferreira December 11, 2018 - 5:51 pm

Hi Kelsey!

What part of the world are you in? A women’s circle sounds amazing. I would love to have a drumming circle around the fire this year 🙂

Nicki December 11, 2018 - 2:53 pm

This is a great article. I learned a lot! I’m excited to share with my daughter!

Suzan Ferreira December 11, 2018 - 3:41 pm

Thank you so much, Nicki! Hopefully, some of the simple celebrations will become a tradition for you and your daughter. Happy Solstice!

Leah Mullins December 11, 2018 - 11:45 am

This is such a cool post and so unique. I love all of the research/info and the fun ideas!

Suzan Ferreira December 11, 2018 - 11:50 am

Thank you, Leah! Happy Solstice!


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