The Winter Solstice occurs at the moment the sun is farthest south of the celestial equator. It signifies the reversal of the lengthening nights and shortening days of winter. In the northern hemisphere, Winter Solstice occurs between December 21st and December 22nd. In the southern hemisphere, it occurs between June 20th and June 21st.
The significance of Winter Solstice varies by culture, but most hold it as a recognition of a moment of rebirth. The sun is at its weakest, but from this night it will grow in strength. The word solstice derives from Latin, sol meaning sun and sistere meaning “to stand still.” No matter what significance this time of year holds for you, it is a great time to plan a party. It is a celebration of the longest night of the year, calling for bonfires, feasting, evergreens and mistletoe, and getting together with the people you love. This article will provide you with some tips for making decorations for your Winter Solstice celebration.
The Sun. The sun is the star player of the Winter Solstice, as we celebrate the moment when the sun will begin to grow in strength, so have plenty of decorations symbolizing the sun. You can find wonderful cut-outs of the sun at craft stores or school supply stores, or make your own on the computer or out of orange construction paper. If there will be children attending your Winter Solstice party, have a craft table where they can create their own suns for decorations and to take home. Oriental Trading has some cute tissue paper sun decorations www.orientaltrading.com, and if you feel like spending a little more, both Target and Amazon.com have some really pretty brass sun decorations. Shop www.target.com or www.amazon.com.
Evergreen Boughs. When ancient peoples observed the air becoming colder, the days getting shorter and crops dying for the winter, many became afraid that the sun was disappearing and that the Earth would freeze. They noticed that some trees remained green all year long and believed that such trees had magical powers. Evergreens are also a great symbol of rebirth in many cultures; you will want to have cut branches on hand and invite everyone to toss their branch onto the fire while making a personal rebirth wish (to share or hold private.) Use evergreen boughs as decorations on windowsills, over doorways, and around your centerpiece on your table. Cut them from your Christmas tree or gather them from outdoors; either way, evergreens add a lovely touch of color to your Winter Solstice decorations. If you can’t get fresh evergreen boughs, try Michaels craft store for plenty of great artificial evergreen garland decorations. www.michaels.com
Mistletoe. Mistletoe was considered sacred by some cultures because it mysteriously grew on the oak, a sacred tree. In a ceremony shortly following Winter Solstice, it was cut and given to each family for good luck. To hang it over a doorway or in a room was to offer goodwill to visitors. Kissing under the mistletoe was a pledge of friendship. Buy mistletoe sprigs, tie them with ribbon, and hang these decorations over each doorway in your home to welcome visitors (and provide kissing opportunities!) Most garden stores should carry mistletoe sprigs at the holiday time. Or shop www.morekissesmistletoe.com/.
Candles. Candles are necessary to light the longest night as you celebrate the Winter Solstice. You can buy candles in any color, scent, or shape you can think of, so get creative when it comes to using candles as decorations. Try www.yankeecandle.com for some great ideas (they have some wonderful pine scented candles). Make sure you have plenty of candles to light your celebration. Place them in appropriate holders and not too close to anything flammable, and don’t leave burning candles unattended if the Winter Solstice celebration moves outdoors to the bonfire. You don’t want to celebrate by burning down your house!
Fire. While technically not a decoration, you need a fire to light the long night. A fireplace is great – a bonfire is even better. Be safe and make sure you have your bonfire in a rock lined pit, surrounded by dirt, far away from your house and any other outlying structures such as a shed or barn. Don’t burn leaves, as theses are easily caught by the wind and can land still flaming on structures. Again, you don’t want to celebrate the Winter Solstice by burning anything down. Place evergreen boughs around the perimeter of your fire for decoration. If you are having your Winter Solstice fire in your fireplace, purchase some scented logs or pinecones to add some magic to the night. Place evergreens on the mantle for decorations, along with a few votive candles.