Winter Solstice- A Warm Holiday in Cold Times

The wind blows hard across a field. The cold cuts to the core. But a bonfire is burning, giving warmth to the people huddled around it. Why are these people braving the cold? To take part in an ancient ritual – celebrating the passing of the Winter solstice. Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is one of the oldest holidays in the world. It crosses over many cultures and countries. The Ancient Chinese believed that the yin was most powerful at the winter solstice, but also that at that time of year, yang was beginning to gain in strength again. Now, the celebration of Dong Zhi is the second most important festival in China after the Chinese New Year. In Europe , the ancient Germanic Yule Festival is the predecessor to today’s Christmas tradition and the originator of the Yule log, which was burned to frighten away evil spirits. "Every year we go to a farm out in the country and have a big bonfire," said senior Sophie Pierce. "Many families go and it’s really warm." Gathering around the bonfire also has a spiritual significance. "It’s a celebration of Earth’s bounty, and a celebration of oneness, and heat, as we transition into the new year." But the solstice isn’t all about the changing of the season; some fun is also had around the fire. "Once Brian burnt his hand really bad on the corn heater, and there are good snowball fights," said Pierce. Winter Solstice occurs exactly when the earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun, at its maximum of 23° 26′. Though the Winter Solstice lasts an instant in time, this tradition has lasted for almost as long as humans have been around and still lasts today as the basis for many holidays around the world and a special moment for many people.