Shortest Day of the Year? Have a Winter Solstice Celebration
In the northern hemisphere, December 21st, also known as the Winter Solstice, is the shortest, darkest day of the year. And let me tell you, here in Seattle, we notice that darkness. The idea of each day getting more and more light is well worth a celebration. So that's what we'll do! We'll plan a family-friendly winter solstice celebration.
Winter solstice Celebration: Let There Be Light
You can't very well have a solstice celebration in the dark (as dark as it may be outside), so bring in some lights. A few you might try:
Lamps (table and floor)
Leave as few on as possible for that extra special feel
All sizes and shapes of candles from tea lights to pillars and everything in between
Don't forget the candlesticks/candelabras if you've got them!
A roaring fireplace
Crackling logs and hypnotizing flickers are so festive
These are open topped bags or containers with light flowing out the top from candles or other lights
Make sure to weight the bags down with something like sand so that the bags stay upright
Placing them along a sidewalk or path to your door welcomes your guests with warmth
Fairy lights=magic lights
White or gold bulbs give a neutral background while colored lights are a bit more party-ish
You don't want them playing with the candles (and they will), so give them a way to participate in a safe (and entertaining) way. Think nightlights, (especially the ones that project onto the ceiling!), glow sticks or flashlights.
Obviously there needs to be a discussion about the use of flashlights ahead of time. Give them a place where they can go wild without blinding others. (Read more for fun activities with flashlights)
Winter Solstice Celebration: Decor
When I picture my winter wonderland I'm somewhere snowy and quiet. Deep in the heart of nature. With that in mind,
Bring some of the outside in with greenery, twigs and branches, wreaths and various pine cones and berries.
To really set the mood make sure you've got some of those candles scattered here and there, fairy lights draped along the ceiling and plenty of blankets and throws to snuggle up in.
This is old school, but fun. If you can find one, set up a lite brite. Does it provide a ton of light? No. But they sure make you smile!
Winter Solstice Celebration: Activities
Adults would probably be more than happy drinking some warm cider in front of the fire and chatting for hours. Kiddos, on the other hand? Need a little more stimulation. Try one of these activities:
Puppet show (here's that flashlight activity!)
Look up how to make shadow puppets and act out a play! Hilarity ensues
Constellation flashlights (via Handmade Charlotte)
Look up some constellations ahead of time
Poke tiny holes in paper that corresponds with the constellations you've chosen
Fix the paper to the base of your flashlight (where the light shines through)
Turn on the flashlight and you can try guessing what shape the constellation makes
Have black paper and white crayons, metallic stars, etc. available so that kids can make their own starry constellations (and perhaps make up stories to go with them!)
Depending on your bravery, either let the kids slather the pine cones in peanut butter or have them ready ahead of time.
Put some birdseed in a tray and roll the sticky cones around until they're covered in seeds.
Hang with some yarn and you've got decoration for indoor or outdoor use!
Release a memory
This was a new one to me when I read it, but part of a winter solstice celebration in other parts of the world is the symbolic release of a memory from the year
Have guests write something on a piece of paper that they'd like to leave behind them in the coming year and then add them to the fire.
This is definitely kid age/understanding appropriate. Adults can have at it!
Winter Solstice Celebration: Snacks
For something a little more filling than s'mores, think of warm, hearty meals like soups or stews, crusty breads, winter fruits like oranges, apples and pears, cider, hot cocoa, spiced nuts...you name it!
In the spirit of gathering (and to take some of the stress off of you) go potluck style. If they're up for it, ask guests to bring a food with meaning to them to share with the group!
These are just a few of the many things you can do at your winter solstice gathering. It can be as simple as a toast of glasses between two people or a large, raucous party.
Even if it's the three of you as a family reading stories by candlelight. It goes back to tradition. And family. And how decor (in this case, candles) contributes to these ideas and more.
Do what feels right to you. Stay warm and look towards those longer days. They're just around the corner! Even in Seattle.
Many of the religions new and old have celebrations this time of year (and especially having to do with light!). I’m handing this over to Wikipedia to tell you more about them.