5 Celebrations of the Winter Solstice Throughout the Years


5 Minute

The longest night of the year, the winter solstice, is upon us! The winter solstice has been celebrated for many years as a turning point in people's lives. Since ancient times, people from all parts of the world have honored this important astronomical event and celebrated the return of the sun in different ways. These traditions have shaped the festivals we celebrate today. Here are some interesting celebrations to read about when the days start getting longer again.


Yalda Celebration

In Iran, the winter solstice has long been celebrated with the Persian holiday Yalda, also known as Shab-e Yalda, Yalda Night. The Persian month of Azar comes to an end on this day. Yalda is traditionally celebrated as the birthday of Mithra (the sun god) and the triumph of light over darkness. Families gather to celebrate, eat special delicacies such as almonds and pomegranates, and some people stay up all night to welcome the dawn.


Smashing Pomegranates Tradition

Did you know that in classical mythology, pomegranates represent fertility and abundance? Pomegranates were also considered sacred in cultures such as ancient Egypt and Judaism, and played an important role in other cultures as well. This fruit, which has similar significance in many cultures, was also of great importance in the Ottoman Empire and Anatolia. So, it is not surprising that it is included in the celebrations of the beginning of winter and the journey of the sun. In this particular celebration, a pomegranate is thrown to the ground and depending on the number of seeds and how far they go, the fate of winter is indicated. It is believed that the more pomegranate seeds and the further they travel, the more abundance and fertility there will be.


Saturnalia Festival

The connection between the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia and today's Christmas is perhaps the closest. This festival, which commemorated the end of the planting season, took place around the time of the winter solstice. Even the slaves did not have to work and were briefly considered equals during the many days of games, feasts and gifts.

Dong Zhi Festival 

Dong Zhi, meaning "arrival of winter," is a time when families traditionally gather to celebrate the year. According to the ancient Chinese celestial calendar, the holiday usually takes place between December 21 and 23. It is said that it began as a harvest festival when workers returned from the fields and shared the harvest with their families. Special delicacies such as Tang Yuan (glutinous rice balls) are eaten on this day. As the days are expected to have longer daylight, it is believed that more good energy will flow in.


St. Lucia’s Day

Around the winter solstice, Scandinavians celebrate St. Lucia's Day, a festival of lights. Although celebrated today in honor of St. Lucia, it has blended with older Nordic solstice rituals, such as lighting fires to drive away spirits during the longest night. Lucia was a saint who shared her family's wealth with the poor and supported them. It is said that at night, with a candle in her hand, she helped poor people and those in need. In honor of St. Lucia, girls wear white dresses with crimson ribbons and wreaths of candles in their hair.

These are just a few of the myriad cultural celebrations of the winter solstice. It is understandable that the beginning of winter and the return of the sun to us is an important celebration, isn't it? Although different cultures have different celebrations, the importance of this day does not change. However you celebrate this day, we hope that the new season brings joy to all of you.