This post was update November 2021.
Winter Solstice marks the day with the fewest hours of daylight here in the Northern Hemisphere. It also heralds the beginning of winter. The solstice takes place when the North Pole is tilted the farthest from the sun, usually on December 21st (sometimes on December 20, 22 or 23rd). To figure out the exact time of the Winter Solstice in your area plug in this quick internet search: winter solstice time [+ current year]. Voila! It should be easy to find. Even though Winter Solstice occurs at a single moment, we make it into a full day of celebration. We embrace the darkness, remembering that from this day onward daylight increases with each and every day – hurrah!
Celebrating Winter Solstice with your Children
Winter Solstice has captivated people for millennia and celebrations have spanned ages and religions. Here is a fun list of ideas and traditions for celebrating the Winter Solstice with your children.
1. Go on a Winter Solstice stroll.
The Winter Solstice is an astronomical event and what better way to celebrate than to go outside. If the Winter Solstice falls on a weekday a big hike might be out of the question, but a stroll around your neighborhood or local park is definitely doable. If it’s dark bring a flashlight or headlamp and make it into a special nighttime adventure.
2. Read a picture book about the Winter Solstice.
Winter Solstice is a wonderful opportunity grab a book and cozy up under the blankets for some read-aloud time. Below is a list of Winter Solstice themed picture books to enjoy with your child.
- A Solstice Tree for Jenny (Young Readers) by Karen Shragg
- Dear Rebecca, Winter Is Here by Jean Craighead George
- Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter by Kenard Pak
- Iliana: A Winter Solstice Tale by Walter Fordham
- One Short Day in December by Lilith Rogers
- Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle
- Sun Bread by
- The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming
- The Longest Night by Marion Dane Bauer
- The Reasons for Seasons by Gail Gibbons
- The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards
- The Shortest Day by
- The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer
- The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
- The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson
3. Make a Winter Solstice lantern.
Lantern Festivals are a popular Winter Solstice tradition that you can recreate on a smaller scale at home. Spend some time with your children making a lantern, and host a little parade around your yard or down your street. Invite your friends and neighbours to join in on the fun.
- Ice lantern.
- Paper lantern.
- Wool felted lantern using a balloon or mason jar.
- Glass jar lantern using fabric, doilies, paper or kite paper.
- Tin can lantern.
- Plastic lantern using old milk jugs.
4. Decorate an outside tree with edible treats for wild animals.
Celebrate the Winter Solstice by giving back to nature. One fun tradition is to decorate a tree outside with edible treats for wild animal. Here are some ideas:
- Homemade popcorn and fresh cranberries garland.
- Sliced oranges, apples, pears, carrots or parsnips hung on strings.
- Cookie cutter bird seed ornaments.
- Orange birdseed ornaments.
- Pinecone bird feeder with peanut butter or lard (fat).
5. Bake a Yule log (bûche de Noël).
The tradition of the Yule log dates back to Europe’s Iron Age when families would burn a decorated log to clear the air of the year’s event and to usher in spring. Over time this tradition has changed, and today we bake Yule log cakes instead – yum!
6. Eat a Winter Solstice feast by candlelight.
Invite your friends and family over and enjoy a Winter Solstice feast by candlelight. Below are some simple winter inspired recipes. For more food ideas check out my Winter Solstice Pinterest page.
- Roasted butternut squash soup.
- Crab cakes.
- Oven roasted chicken with lemon rosemary garlic butter.
- Roasted root vegetables.
After your meal say a special winter poem or prayer.
7. Cozy up by a fire with a warm drink.
Grab a blanket, a warm drink and cozy up by a fire with your loved ones. An outside bonfire is magical, a crackling fireplace is lovely too. If neither is an option watch a fireplace video online!