5 Ways To Celebrate The Winter Solstice, aka The Shortest Day Of The Year

It's here — the shortest day of the year that marks the onset of the winter season. And, while your first inclination might be to hibernate with a glass of wine, resist the temptation. There are plenty of other ways to celebrate the winter solstice.

I'll spare you a major science lesson, but I think the winter solstice deserves at least a brief explanation. We likely all already know that winter and summer are caused by Earth's tilt on its axis — not Earth's distance from the sun. So, during the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere is leaning the furthest away from the sun for the year, causing the short period of daylight and the long night.

Now that you've got the science down pat, what about a little history? Traditionally, Stonehenge is an extremely popular place to witness the winter solstice sunrise and sunset, as the astronomical monument is aligned on a perfect sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset. In fact, many researchers think that the winter solstice was more important to the people who built Stonehenge than the summer solstice. So, needless to say, it's a great gathering place for the celebration.

Alright, so not all of us can pack up our bags and gather at Stonehenge today. But, luckily, that's not your only option. Here are five other fitting ways you can welcome the winter solstice. Because even though it marks the start of winter, it's still worthy of a little celebration.

1. Bundle up and stargaze

Obviously, the cause of the winter solstice is all happening up there in space. And, while you can't necessarily see a defining solstice moment — like you could with an eclipse or meteor shower — it's still a great excuse to pile on some warm clothes, lay down on a blanket, and look up at the stars. After all, the winter solstice is an astronomical event. So, you might as well stick with the theme.

2. Set the mood

Speaking of themes, any winter solstice celebration deserves some appropriate decor. Turn off all of the lights, and use only candles for illumination in order to recall a time when the sun and fire were people's only sources of light. For decorations, use items found in nature such as twigs, pinecones, and evergreen branches. If you want to get extra traditional, make a yule wreath from some of your natural materials. The circular shape is said to represent both the family circle and the cycle of the seasons. So, it's a fitting choice.

3. Put together a feast

It's simply not a celebration without some delicious eats. Luckily, sharing food is a big component of the winter solstice. Create a bunch of your favorite dishes, or invite your friends over for a potluck. Also, since the winter solstice aims to connect us with nature, don't forget about feeding your friends out there in the wild. Fill a bird feeder or scatter some seeds, and you're well on your way to celebrating the winter solstice the right way.

4. Meditate and reflect

As the winter solstice symbolizes the beginning of a new season, it's the perfect time to reflect on the past year, and also think about your wishes for the coming one. You can do this with friends by each lighting a candle, and talking about what you're each grateful for from the past year. Or, you can simply have some quiet time alone to reflect on your own thoughts and goals. Either way, a little bit of time for thought is a crucial part of a winter solstice celebration.

5. Have a movie marathon

In case the more traditional aspects of the winter solstice don't necessarily appeal to you, you definitely can still take advantage of the longer period of darkness by cozying up under some blankets, and watching all of your favorite movies. Hey, we all know you don't feel quite as lazy about watching six hours of TV when it's actually dark outside, so enjoy this while you can.

Images: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr; Giphy (5)