A Little Time and a Keyboard: What is the Winter Solstice? 8 Winter Solstice Celebrations in the Chicago Suburbs for 2023

What is the Winter Solstice? 8 Winter Solstice Celebrations in the Chicago Suburbs for 2023

Monday, December 18, 2023


What is the Winter Solstice? 8 Winter Solstice Celebrations in the Chicago Suburbs for 2023

December is a month full of celebration. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we mark the Winter Solstice which is the shortest day of the year happening on either December 21 or 22. After the Winter Solstice, we look forward to days of more and more daylight.

During the winter solstice, the North Pole points away from the sun at its furthest point. Since the Earth tilts on its axis, the sun travels in an arc. During the winter solstice, the sun is at its lowest point traveling along this arc.

Winter Solstice at Harms Woods.
Winter Solstice at Harms Woods.

This year's Winter Solstice will occur at 3:27AM GMT on December 22 or at 9:27 PM here in Chicago on December 21. At this time, the sun is directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn.

After the Winter Solstice, days in the Northern Hemisphere start to get longer. The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of winter on the astronomical calendar. The 12-day Scandinavian festival of Juul centers around the Winter Solstice. Many of these traditions have been wrapped into Christmas including the Christmas tree and yule log.

Other Winter Solstice Traditions

Japan's Winter Solstice celebration known as Toji includes burning bonfires on Mt. Fuji on December 22 to welcome the return of the sun as well as nurture crops after the harshness of winter. Some Japanese eat kabocha squash to bring good luck.

The Hopi of Arizona celebrate Soyal as part of their tradition honoring the kachinas which represent ancestral spirits of the natural world. Ritual dances welcome back the sun. Gift giving and prayers for the new year are also part of the celebration.

The Zuni, one of the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, welcome the beginning of the new year with a series of dances and ceremonies called the Shalako. The festival actually begins a few days prior with fasting, prayer, and observation of the rising and setting sun. The Pekwin or "Sun Priest" announces the moment of the rebirth of the sun with a long mournful call. Then, the celebration begins. Trained dancers serve as Shalako messengers and are depicted as kachinas.

The Dongzhi Festival in China occurs on December 21, 22, or 23. During the festival, the Chinese worship heaven and the ancestors. Images and tablets are placed on the table and incense is burned. Glutinous rice balls called tangyuan are eaten as well as Winter Solstice dumplings.

At Newgrange in Ireland, as the Winter Solstice sun rises sunlight enters the passage and chamber of a prehistoric tomb creating a dramatic illumination. Attendees are chosen via lottery.

During the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge in England, the sun aligns perfectly to shine between the rocks.

Winter Solstice Events in the Chicago Suburbs December 21, 2023

Winter Solstice Sunrise Hike at Mount Hoy in Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, 6:45AM-7:45AM

Winter Solstice Event at Fabyan Japanese Tea Garden in Aurora, 4PM-6PM, family activities and a lantern walk, $12 per family, must register

Winter Solstice Hike at Johnson's Mound in Elburn, 4:30PM-5:30PM, free but registration required

Winter Solstice Parade of Lights, Shelton Park, Glencoe, 5PM-6PM, fire pit, hot cocoa, parade

Winter Solstice Night Hike at Bristol Woods in Bristol, Wisconsin, 5:30PM-7:30PM, $6 pp, registration required

Winter Solstice Hike and Campfire at Emily Oaks Nature Center in Skokie, 7PM-8PM, self guided hike on lighted trails, camp fire, free but hot cocoa an s'mores for purchase

Freya's Farewell and Winter Solstice Event at Geneva History Museum, 7PM-8:30PM, Viking style snacks, meet Viking reenactors, enjoy the exhibit before it closes, make New Year's promises, free but must register

Winter Solstice Lantern Walk at Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington, 7PM, event is free but you must register.

What is the Winter Solstice? 8 Winter Solstice Celebrations in the Chicago Suburbs for 2023

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