Winter solstice welcoming the light

Winter Solstice: Celebrations Around the World

Date:

The Winter Solstice is an important time of year for many cultures around the world. Falling on Dec. 21st or 22nd* in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is at its furthest away from the equator marking the shortest day (by daylight) of the year. The winter solstice signifies the ‘return of the sun’ and the beginning of longer, brighter days ahead. For thousands of years, cultures around the world have recognized this important celestial event as a day of celebration, ritual and tradition.

Many solstice traditions of the past have influenced holidays we celebrate now, including Christmas and Hanukkah. While some of these traditions have faded over time, certain cultures – including many Indigenous peoples in Canada – are reclaiming and revitalizing their unique traditions. The holiday season can be a great time for us all to learn about new traditions and build a connection with communities who are different from our own.

Why is the Winter Solstice Significant?

Yukon northern lights

Events like the solstice are important reminders of our interconnectedness to the natural world. Indigenous values teach us the importance of respecting our place in the ecosystem and honouring these natural cycles of the universe. “In understanding the interconnectedness of all things, we recognize that the cosmos – the sun, moon, stars, and other planets – affect us and connect us in undeniable ways.”1

Tourism Yukon / Justin Kennedy

The winter solstice is seen as a time of deep reflection, of spiritual, mental, and physical self-care, and a time to care for our loved ones as we prepare for the longer days ahead.

For many Indigenous cultures, winter is also a time to connect with the spirits of the past – to reflect on and thank our ancestors, share stories with our community, and honour our origins.2

How is the Winter Solstice Celebrated?

For the Inuit across the Arctic of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland, the sun is a scarce resource in the winter months, giving more reason for a celebration around the winter solstice. Called “Tiqqiq Arviq”, or ‘return of the sun’, the occasion calls for community feasts, traditional games and activities like ice fishing.

For the Blackfoot First Nation in Southern Alberta, similar celebrations focus on games, community dances, and feasts.

Indigenous cultural traditions in Canada for the Winter Solstice.
SLCC Winter Feast, Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. Tourism Whistler/Justa Jeskova

In Scandinavia, they celebrate the Feast of Juul – the origin of the world ‘Yule’, meaning ‘winter holiday season’. Fires are lit to symbolize the heat and light of the returning Sun, along with the ceremonial burning of the Yule log over 12 nights as a tribute to the Norse god Thor.2

In China, the festival Dongzhi, or the ‘arrival of winter’, is an end-of-harvest festival marked with a celebration of food and time spent with family. Other winter solstice celebrations include Szczodre Gody in Poland, Yalda in Iran, Chawmos in Pakistan, and the Fiesta de Santo Tomás in Guatemala.

A Time of Reflection, Connection, and Rest

Gathering friends and family for the winter solstice.

While the names may vary, the essence of winter solstice celebrations around the World all centre around connecting with loved ones, reflecting on the past and setting intentions for the year ahead, and honouring our connection to the natural world.

These events are also an opportunity to learn about other cultures and build connections across diverse communities. Do you have friends who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, for example? Take the time to ask what makes this season special to them. How can you create a sense of community with your neighbours, and bring more light to this winter season?

Our Solstice wishes for you:

  • Take it slow. Check in with your health and wellbeing
  • Reconnect with friends and family. Check in on each other. Share a meal.
  • Clean your home and declutter – start the year fresh.
  • Get out in nature. Take note of the sun and your natural surroundings. Have a campfire.
  • Take time to reflect on the year. What are you most grateful for, and excited about in 2024?

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

Pam McGarel CEO of Mosaic Earth Travel

~ Pam McGarel
Founder & CEO, Mosaic Earth Travel


Travel with us next summer! We specialize in bespoke, small-group tours in BC and the Yukon.

*In 2023, the Winter Solstice occurs on 21st December 7:27pm PT.

Sources
  1. NDN Collective
  2. Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council
  3. Powwow Time

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Guide

Sarah Hain

Based on Vancouver Island, Sarah holds a BA in International Development and an MA in Sustainable Leisure Management. Sarah is passionate about elevating responsible tourism practices that benefit both visitors and residents alike while protecting the fragile environment of the places we love to explore. Sarah has experience guiding in Central America where she led multi-day trips up volcanoes and through the remote foothills of Guatemala. She has since partnered with several non-profit tourism organizations in Guatemala, Belize, Canada, and the US to provide transformative experiences for travellers and empower local communities.

When not working, you can find her skiing, fishing, caring for her chickens, and volunteering her time to restore and protect salmon habitats.

Photographer & Guide

Josh McGarel

An avid photographer for over twelve years, Josh has gained experience with local and international businesses, world-renowned athletes, and individuals to build professional content and brand presence across a variety of platforms.

He has worked on assignment for an expedition cruise operator as Photographer in Residence along the East Coast of Canada, South Georgia, and Antarctica. Here, Josh connected with his love of travel as he documented daily excursions, wildlife, and life onboard, and shared his knowledge of photography through presentations and workshops for passengers.

Hailing from the United Kingdom, Josh has lived in BC since 2014. He spends his time exploring the area by mountain bike and dreaming up crazy photo projects with friends.
Founder & Lead Guide

Pam McGarel

With a Masters of Science in International Development and Sustainable Tourism, Pam has dedicated her career to harnessing the power of travel to support the wellbeing of our planet and its people. She is an experienced guide, planner and project manager with a knack for logistics.

Prior to launching Mosaic Earth, Pam worked in sustainable tourism consulting where she helped develop a globally-recognized certification program for tourism businesses and destinations.

She has experience in public-private partnerships with a polar expedition cruise operator where she built relationships with world-leading field scientists, conservationists, and educators to facilitate their projects alongside the traveller experience. Pam is a member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Women Travel Leaders, and loves to connect with values-driven tourism professionals.

Originally from Ontario, Pam moved to BC in 2016 seeking outdoor adventure, with favourite activities including hiking, sea kayaking, snowboarding, and road trips around this beautiful province.