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Winter Solstice

Authored by British Online Archives
Published on 21st December, 2022 1 min read

Winter Solstice

A picture of the sunsetting over a field.

For those living north of the equator, today (21/12/2022) marks the annual Winter Solstice: the point at which the northern hemisphere is tilted furthest from the sun, producing the shortest day and longest night of the year, respectively. Throughout human history, this event has acquired a great deal of cultural significance: in both hemispheres, “Midwinter” – as it is often known – has long been celebrated with prayers, festivals, and feasting. In Ancient Rome, “Saturnalia” marked the year’s “rebirth”, and featured “role reversals”, with masters, servants, and enslaved people dining together (in fact, many believe that key aspects of this event – such as the custom of giving presents – directly influenced later festivals such as Christmas). 

In the UK, many still gather to celebrate “Yule” – a pagan Winter Solstice tradition – at sites such as Stonehenge; in North America, the Hopi and Zuni peoples observe “Soyal”, praying, dancing, and engaging in purification rituals; and in China, during the winter festival of “Dongzhi”, many hold family gatherings, prepare rice wine, and cook foods such as dumplings or “Tangyuan” (a dessert made from rice). 

To all those celebrating today, BOA wishes you a very happy Winter Solstice!

Authored by British Online Archives

British Online Archives

British Online Archives provides unique collections of primary source documents for students and researchers studying the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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Notable Days


The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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