The Winter Solstice is one of my favorite seasonal shifts to celebrate. It is a moment when the earth’s tilt causes the shortest day and longest night of the year. It has been honored since pre-Christian times and celebrates the birth of the Sun, the return of light, and the joy as each day grows longer and longer.
It usually takes place on or around December 21st every year in the Northern Hemisphere.
Though it has ancient roots many cultures around the world celebrate the solstice by holding festivals, and holidays to this day. This Smithsonian article about Native American history revealed that the Winter Solstice is a time of storytelling. After a long summer and fall of gathering food and supplies, many Native American tribes took full advantage of the long dark evenings by telling stories that would entertain and teach the children.
Each year around solstice time, we make a paper chain and write a book tile on each chainlink. Each night we remove one link and read the coordinating story by candlelight. We do this every night in December until the Winter Solstice when we walk the Soltice Sprial which signifies our journey inward. We gather the light in the center of the spiral and as we walk outward we carry a newly lit candle to signify our journey outward into the light. It’s a great way to honor the light half and the dark half of the year.
If you are looking to learn about and celebrate Midwinter, then check out some of our favorite books bel. Most of them are available at libraries or on Thriftbooks.com.
The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfiffer
Explore the Winter solstice throughout history and catch a glimpse of how ancients celebrated this shortest day of the year around the world. There’s also a few great science experiment ideas in the back of the book.
Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World by Heather Conrad
Lights of Winter is a children’s picture book about winter celebrations around the world: Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, Teng Chieh, Diwali, Soyal, Las Posadas, Zagmuk, Saturnalia.
Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here by Jean Craighead George
From a letter written by her grandmother, Rebecca learns that winter began on June 21, while she was cooling off under the hose. The northern half of the Earth began to grow cold, and the days grew shorter. The birds began to fly to the sunny underside of the Earth, and the groundhogs and bears went to sleep. But on December 22, summer will begin. Before long, Rebecca will take off her shoes and jump over bluebells.
A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen Shragg
It’s Christmas time all across America and Jenny is feeling left out. Her secular parents, born to different faiths that they no longer observe, don’t believe in celebrating Christmas. She never seemed to mind before, but this year it bothers her–maybe because they’re home and not on the Florida coast where they usually go at this time of the year to avoid the holiday hoopla. All around her the neighbors have decorated their houses with festive lights, while her house, by contrast, looks drab and uninviting during the long, cold winter nights. Feeling like an outsider, she wonders why her family needs to be so different! She talks with her mom and dad about their reasons for not observing the holidays.
Iliana: A Winter Solstice Tale by Walter Fordham
Iliana is the story of a young girl’s quest for the sun. As the days grow shorter, everyone around her is worried, and no one knows what to do. Determined to save her kingdom from darkness, Iliana sets off alone to find the sun. Her adventures take her to unexpected realms where she encounters magical friends who help her on her way and, in the end, she discovers more than she set out to find.
The Longest Night by Marion Dane Bauer
It is the longest night of the year, and the snow lies deep. All through the forest, animals long for dawn’s warmth. Strong and clever creatures boast that only they can bring back the sun. But the wind knows better. The wind calls Chickadee, whose simple song wakes the sun.
The Night Tree by Eve Bunting
By moonlight in the quiet forest, a young boy and his family decorate their favorite tree with popcorn, apples, tangerines, and sunflower-seed balls as a gift for the animals of the woods.
The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards
The winter solstice, the day the “sun stands still,” marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year, and it comes either on December 20th or 21st. Celebrations honoring the winter solstice as a moment of transition and renewal date back thousands of years and occur among many peoples on every continent. The Return of the Light makes an ideal companion for everyone who carries on this tradition, no matter what their faith. Storyteller Carolyn McVickar Edwards retells twelve traditional tales-from North America, China, Scandinavia, India, Africa, South America, Europe, and Polynesia-that honor this magical moment. These are stories that will renew our wonder of the miracle of rebirth and the power of transition from darkness into light.
The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson + Jan Davey Ellis
The winter solstice―the shortest day of the year―marks the beginning of the coldest, darkest season. Discover the scientific reasons for this phenomenon and learn how cultures past and present have celebrated it.
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper
As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, early people would gather to prepare for the long night ahead. They built fires and lit candles. They played music, bringing their own light to the darkness while wondering if the sun would ever rise again. Written for a theatrical production that has become a ritual in itself, Susan Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day” captures the magic behind the returning of the light, the yearning for traditions that connect us with generations that have gone before — and the hope for peace that we carry into the future.
Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven
Winter’s gray chill has set in and everyone misses the sun-especially the baker. So she decides to bring some warmth to the town by making sun bread. And as the bread bakes, rising hot and delicious, everyone comes out to share in its goodness. Everyone, including the sun itself. With a lilting, rhyming text, colorful illustrations, and a recipe for baking your own sun bread, this tasty treat.
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
This classic story of the Tomten’s nocturnal visits to all of the residents of the wintry farm has been reminding children of the promise of spring for decades.
A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King
Wily trickster Coyote is having his friends over for a little solstice get-together in the woods when a little girl comes by unexpectedly. She leads the friends through the snowy woods to the mall — a place they had never seen before. The trickster goes crazy with glee as he shops with abandon, only to discover that filling a shopping cart with goodies is not quite the same thing as actually paying for them. The trickster is tricked and goes back to his cabin in the woods — somewhat subdued — though nothing can keep Coyote down for long. Thomas King is known for his fiction featuring Canada’s Native people.
Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak
As leaves fall from their trees, animals huddle against the cold, and frost creeps across windows, everyone knows―winter is on its way!
Join a brother and sister as they explore nature and take a stroll through their twinkling town, greeting all the signs of the coming season. In a series of conversations with everything from the setting sun to curious deer, they say goodbye to autumn and welcome the glorious first snow of winter.
Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story by Geri Keams
After Possum and Buzzard fail in their attempts to steal a piece of the sun, Grandmother Spider succeeds in bringing light to the animals on her side of the world.
Welcome Back Sun by Michael Emberley
This book captures a Norwegian family’s life during the murketiden, the time between September and March when the sun almost disappears in the mountain villages of Norway.
The Solstice Badger by Robin McFadden
The Solstice Badger tells the tale of the days when the Sun shone all day long, every day. In the beginning, The Sun roamed the earth happy and filled with joy, but eventually he became terribly lonely and sad, and his light began to dim. Aware of his plight, many of the earth’s creatures tried to befriend the Sun, only to find his intense heat burned, and prevented them from getting too close. To the Sun’s great joy, one day there came a creature that found a way to get close to the sun, and soon the two became great friends. Staying longer and longer each day with his friend, the Sun’s absence from the sky eventually caused the skies to darken and snow to fall. All living things suffered. Would the Sun realize his impact on the world’s suffering before it was too late? Would he have to leave his only friend and new found happiness forever in order to to save the world?
Do you celebrate Winter Solstice?