Embrace the dark and cold with the winter solstice

The winter solstice is Dec. 21. Gather with friends and neighbors to store up enough light and warmth to weather the storm ahead.
Photo by PxHere
Photo by PxHere

According to the winter solstice, we’ve made it to the darkest, shortest day of the year, Dec. 21. Around the northern hemisphere, the occasion is marked with bonfires, dancing and feasts — perhaps to store up strength and warmth for the coldest months of them all.

Despite the burst of solstice celebrations, it’s less of a sudden turning point than a signifier of the painfully slow crawl we begin to make toward those serene 8 p.m. summer sunsets over Lake Mendota.

In fact, News 3 Now meteorologist Greg Barnhart points out that, “from a meteorological standpoint, [the winter solstice] doesn’t symbolize anything other than the start of the coldest time of year on average.” That’s why it’s important to remember that even though the winter solstice signifies the lengthening of daytime, it’s not a time to let your guard down about the weather.

Climatological winter is measured a little differently than the seasons on our calendar. “Our climatological winter is from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 (or 29),” Barnhart says, and this year’s winter is starting off on a colder footing than average. The temperature high on Dec. 21 will be in the high single-digits.

But it’s rather uplifting to celebrate what we can’t change rather than lament it. When the earth is tilted at its maximum away from the sun, sharing light with others is a unifying experience against the darkness — and the dark, cold days to come.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a winter solstice celebration at Olbrich Park. A special bonfire lighting ceremony will take place to mark the end of darkness and the welcoming of light. The SASY Neighborhood Association and Friends of Starkweather Creek invite you to “bring thoughts to forget and lose in the fire ash, wishes to ascend with the smoke to hope for more light in our lives as we celebrate the beginning of the long night.”

The celebration will include hot beverages (bring your own mug), drumming, singing, dancing, “Wish Fairies,” “Giant Puppets” and ice lanterns, if the weather permits. Gather with friends and neighbors to store up enough light and warmth to weather the storm ahead.

20th Anniversary Winter Solstice Celebration at Olbrich Park
Dec. 2, 4-7 p.m., 3527 Atwood Ave., find details here

Emma Waldinger is associate editor at Madison Magazine. Photo by form PxHere

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