The winter solstice is celebrated in unique ways all over the world. However, at the heart of almost every celebration lies a unifying concept: emerging from the darkness and embracing the arrival of light. Here are seven winter solstice traditions:
1. Shab-e Yalda
In Iran, Yalda night is celebrated with the whole family gathering together to eat, drink, and read poems — called Hafez — well past midnight. This is celebrated on the actual date of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.
2. Lohri in India
The festival of Lohri in India is celebrated by the Sikh community on the evening of the winter solstice. Bonfires are lit, and people sing and dance until the flames die out.
3. Burning the Clocks in Brighton
The British city of Brighton holds a fireworks parade on December 21 called “Burning the Clocks in Brighton.” People parade paper and willow lanterns they’ve made through the city, and then pass them into a huge bonfire on the beach.
4. The Solstice Chase Bike Race
The Solstice Chase Bike Race in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, is probably the second largest biker race in the U.S., and it takes place on the day of the winter solstice.
5. Dong Zhi
Translating to “winter arrives,” the Chinese festival Dong Zhi welcomes the return of longer days and the corresponding increase in positive energy in the year to come. Rice balls, known as “tang yuan,” are cooked and eaten on this day.
6. Inti Raymi
In Peru, the winter solstice is celebrated in June as it is in the Southern Hemisphere. The Inti Raymi, or the “sun festival,” is dedicated to honoring the sun god Inti.
7. Sunset and Sunrise at Stonehenge
Both winter and summer solstices attract large crowds to the prehistoric site of ancient stones in Wiltshire. People gather and play instruments, sing, dance, kiss the stones, and practice yoga.