10 Interesting Winter Solstice Traditions around the World

Winter Solstice, as a special time point, is celebrated in many countries, hence there are amount of Winter Solstice celebrations around the world. How to celebrate Winter Solstice indeed? Here are 10 most popular Winter Solstice traditions in different places of the world. 


1. Winter Solstice and Yule Festival in Europe

Yule is an ancient festival celebrating the rebirth of the sun in northern Europe as the sun shines longer and longer after the day. People sit around the campfire and told the story while drinking sweet ale. Other Winter Solstice rituals were gradually added such as Yule Log that is burning the trees on the field, eating ham, and singing ode.

2. Winter Sunrise at Stonehenge, England

In the UK, one of the most popular Winter Solstice activities is that people dress up in a variety of characters and animals and come to Stonehenge to welcome the latest dawn of the year and celebrate the arrival of the Winter Solstice. It is said that people come to Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice because of the relation between Stonehenge and the sun. On Winter Solstice, the sunset light shines right through two stones here.

3. Winter Solstice at Newgrange, Ireland

Newgrange is a huge tombstone located in County Meath in northeastern Ireland with a history of more than 5,000 years, which is even older than Stonehenge. Only the first sunshine of the Winter Solstice can shine into the inner chamber of the tomb. The most popular way to celebrate Winter Solstice here is the annual lottery draw, and the only 60 lucky fellows can enter the Newgrange tomb at sunrise to welcome the only sunshine of the year.


4. The Bonfires of Saint John, Spain

One Winter Solstice tradition in Spain is called Las Hogueras. At that night, bonfires are lit in large cities and many rural areas. Locals believe that jumping over the bonfire on the shortest day in the year can protect them from disease in the coming year.


5. The Feast of Winter Solstice in Seattle, USA

Seattle people have many Winter Solstice celebration ideas. The one from Fremont Arts Council is the most well-known. It hosts a banquet on the longest night of the year, summing up and reminiscing the past year, and making new wishes, hoping that new dreams will come true with the arrival of the sun.


6. Winter Parade and Lantern Show in Canada

In Toronto, Canada, people gather to spend the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice traditions include lighting lanterns and fire dancing show.

7. Dongzhi Festival in China

In China, the Winter Solstice is also called Dongzhi. When you ask people there “how do you celebrate Winter Solstice”, the most answers you get may be eating dumplings. There, people eat dumplings to protect ears from frostbiting, glutinous rice balls to celebrate family reunion, and mutton to warm body up, etc. In ancient times, it was as important as the Chinese New Year as the day time started to become longer and longer, so the Winter Solstice events also include worshipping the Heaven and ancestors, which are still preserved in some areas.

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8. Yuzu Hot Spring in Japan

A popular Japanese Winter Solstice tradition is the hot spring with Yuzu, a kind of fruit tastes like grapefruit. It is said that in Japan, the Winter Solstice was previously considered the day closest to death and people warmed up their bodies in Yuzu hot spring to drive out bad luck, and pray for safety and health.

There is a saying in Japan that the foods whose pronunciation end up with Japanese “ん” indicate good luck. Therefore, carrots, white radish, lotus root, ginkgo, agar, kumquat and other foods are auspicious food and widely ate on Winter Solstice.


9. Eat Red Bean Porridge in Korea

The representative Winter Solstice food of South Korea is red bean porridge. Since ancient times, Koreans have had the Winter Solstice tradition of eating red bean porridge to exorcise devils. In addition to dining customs, the Winter Solstice also has some other folk sayings. For example, if the paper with the word “snake” is placed on a wall or a pillar, the evil spirits cannot enter the home.

10. Yalda Night before Winter Solstice, Iran

In Iran, the Winter Solstice eve is called Yalda night. Yalda means new birth. Iranians think this night is the longest and darkest night of the year. Therefore, the Iranians family members get together to dispel the melancholy and suffocation of the night. The Iranians eat a lot of fruit on this day to celebrate the Yalda Festival.

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- Last updated on Aug. 26, 2019 -
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