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Did you Know? Winter Solstice

To help increase awareness of religious diversity, my department's Wellness and Inclusion Team is doing a "Did you know" series. This series features information on various religious and secular celebrations throughout the year.

Winter solstice (December 22, 2019)

Did you know?

Some of our colleagues will be celebrating Winter Solstice this holiday season.

  • Winter Solstice is celebrated on December 22, the shortest day of the year, to mark the return of the sun's presence in the sky.
  • Indigenous peoples associate this holiday with renewal, birth, sun gods and life-death-rebirth deities, while pagans and Wiccans associate it with the rebirth of the sun god (known by names such as Apollo and Ra).

For Indigenous peoples

  • Winter Solstice has been celebrated by Indigenous people for generations as a time to spiritually prepare to greet the new sun with the intention of living lives of light and love.
  • Some Indigenous people would traditionally go to bed early on the eve of the Winter Solstice to dream. In the morning, the entire tribe would discuss their dreams/visions at length to determine their meaning for the individual, for the tribe or for the world.
  • It is also a time of thanksgiving, for remembering those who are less fortunate and for sharing with others through gifts, kind deeds and hospitality.

For pagans and Wiccans

  • Pagans and Wiccans refer to Winter Solstice as "Yule," a time to help others say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new. Traditions include kissing under the mistletoe, caroling, eating fruitcake, sharing a meal, giving gifts and decorating with holly.
  • Yule may be celebrated in many different ways, including setting up an altar, offering prayers, making crafts, participating in a cleansing ritual or having a Yule log ceremony.
  • The traditional Yule log has three candles that can represent various aspects of the celebration:
    • red, green and white representing the season
    • green, gold and black representing the sun god
    • white, red, and black representing the great goddess

To all those who celebrate, we wish you "Happy Winter Solstice!" and "Happy Yule!"

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