The Guardian

Celebrate the winter solstice to reclaim the festive spirit | Gillian Monks

Our Christmas traditions originate in midwinter celebrations tens of thousands of years old. Let’s reach back and remember• Gillian Monks is the author of Merry Midwinter
‘The day of the winter solstice marks the exact time when our part of planet Earth is leaning furthest away from the sun.’ Winter solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

Midwinter celebration is our oldest, most important festival, dating back tens of thousands of years. The day of the winter solstice – usually around 21 December – is the date when we experience the shortest day and the longest night in the northern hemisphere: the exact time when our part of planet Earth is leaning furthest away from the sun.

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin meaning “sun stands still”, when the apparent movement of the

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