Celebrating the darkest day of the year

8 mins read

As the winter solstice approaches, we have much to reflect on. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that the longer days are going to be great.

After all, 2020 have provided us with enough darkness.

It’s not to say we need to forget these times but forgive them. After all, life comes with loss and pain, just as it does with happiness and joy. Nothing you feel is ridiculous, just be proud of yourself for surviving the year, we’re almost at the end now.

These last few months may have been dark, but they’ve held meaning. As we move into the belly of December, there are plenty more holidays to celebrate. One of them is the winter solstice, an old as time winter tradition that is celebrated all around the world.

Naturally, we can’t all celebrate these old and new traditions like we used to. However, we can reflect on them and remember those feelings. Maybe find ways to celebrate them in the comfort and safety of our own homes.

It’s time to feel excited. We get to wave goodbye to the long dark nights and look towards the new sun coming our way.

There are a few different ways to celebrate the winter solstice in the UK. Maybe the most recognised celebration is the annual iconic Stonehenge gathering. Everyone gathers to watch the first sunrise through the gorgeous prehistoric stones, I’ve never been but it looks stunning.

Credit: The Guardian

Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, it has to be live-streamed this year. This doesn’t mean it won’t be important because it still is. The English Heritage website states that: “The stones of Stonehenge have silently marked the winter solstice for thousands of years.”

To experience the Stonehenge winter solstice live stream visit English Heritage on social media:



That culture can never be dismissed. Time will still move forward, and you can still celebrate, and there’s always the best way: feast. Midwinter feasting is something you can do in the comfort of your own home, eat and enjoy shedding the year’s darkness as you look towards next year’s light.

A newer tradition is Brighton’s annual parade Burning the Clocks. Which not only sounds iconic but has been around for just two years. Fire has traditionally been included in the winter solstice, whether to ward off evils or to create bonfires. This tradition is new to me, but it really does sound incredibly fun.

This tradition is hosted by Same Sky, an award-winning community arts charity. Each year there’s a different theme that reflects what the community feels. Checking out their page, I saw they had an abundance of exciting events plus a magical history of fun. They mark the passage of time by literally burning clocks to welcome the new year.

People wear costumes that represent clocks, or maybe are clocks, and carry lanterns made of wood and paper. It gets very picturesque now because they carry them down to the beach to be burned in a massive bonfire.

Credit: CultureTrip.com

Which sound gorgeous, but what makes it beautiful is what the bonfire represents. All their hopes, wishes and fears are passed into the flames of the bonfire. However, this year will be different, thanks to Covid-19.

The annual parade and fire show obviously cannot happen, but the celebrations will continue. Brighton’s shop windows will adore decorations by local artists and Same Sky are even designing lantern packs that people can make themselves and hang in their windows to celebrate the solstice.

Sounds pretty cool, unless you’re not in Brighton. Worry not, because the Burning the Clocks festivities also includes loud music and fireworks to jazz things up. Those are two things you can definitely get your hands on, plus, you could always make your own bonfire and write down all you hope for the next year in its flames.

These are not the only Winter Solstice celebrations. There’s also a little town in Cornwall called Penzance that knows how to throw down too. They call their celebrations the ‘Montol Festival’ to celebrate the midwinter solstice and to keep Cornish traditions alive.

Midwinter is just another name for the winter solstice. Like Yule, The Longest Night or even the Celtic name for it: Meán Geimhridh. We all have our own cultures and traditions for such celebrations, only emphasising the importance of the winter solstice.

Okay, back to the Montol Festival now. Continuing that theme of fire, we find these locals dressing up in carnival-like costumes and hoisting lanterns high into the dark night.

Credit: ForeverCronwall.co.uk

It’s to create a “river of fire” that is meant to celebrate the return of the sun. I can already see it in my mind, and it looks stunning. Not to mention just the thought of dressing up, it would be like a second Halloween. Not to mention it usually includes storytelling and mask-making workshops.

There were times in Scotland where the Winter Solstice was celebrated. Back in the old days, before Christianity stood over the threshold. Mistletoe was a large part of celebrations, and not only to sneak kisses under. Instead, Celtic Priests used to cut the mistletoe that grew on oak trees and give it a blessing.

Not to mention Druid Priests were also all about the Yule log tradition. They’d burn it for twelve days in the middle of winter to banish evil spirits, conquer the growing night and bring good luck to the new year.

Now, finding mistletoe and burning a yule log for twelve days might not be your easiest feat. However, we can still have so much fun in the comfort of our homes. The dark days will soon be behind us and we have a bright future ahead of us. Just remember, these dark days are not forever, but neither is the light.

To enjoy what we have, we need to appreciate it.

Featured Image Credit: CornwallLive.com

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Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.

Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.

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