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HomeWorldThe winter solstice is important in different cultures all over the world.

The winter solstice is important in different cultures all over the world.

If you’ve already spent a lot of time cleaning snow this winter it might be a shock to discover that technically it’s still not winter. According to the definition of astronomy that the season officially start on the Northern Hemisphere on Dec. 21, 2022. This is the longest holiday of the calendar also known as Winter Solstice.

The months that lead up to winter solstice can be long as the days get shorter and temperatures decrease. However, it’s also historically an occasion of celebration and renewal – it’s no wonder that a variety of traditions celebrate major holidays at this time.

Below are the four most important facts you should learn about the solstice from the meaning of it to the way it’s been celebrated all over the world.

Journey of the sun

The first question is: When does the Winter Solstice mean?

It’s also not the day that has the most recent sunrise or first sunset. Instead, it’s the time the time when “the sun appears the lowest in the Northern Hemisphere sky and is at its farthest southern point over Earth,” said William Teets, an Astronomer who works at Vanderbilt University. “After that, the sun will start to creep back north again.”

For those living in the Southern Hemisphere, meanwhile, the date of December. 21, 2022 will mark the solstice of summer. The winter solstice will be June 21, 2023 on the same day that when the Northern Hemisphere celebrates its summer solstice.

“Believe it or not,” Teets said, “we are closest to the sun in January” as a reminder that seasons are based on the tilt of the Earth’s axial plane at any point in moment, not its distance to the star of our solar system.

Ancient astronomy

Many Americans thinking of winter solstice festivities will immediately imagine Stonehenge However, traditions have been celebrating the solstice in a different way, close to the home. Numerous Native American communities have long celebrated solstice celebrations, explained University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researcher Rosalyn LaPier, an Indigenous writer ecobotanist, ethnobotanist, and environmental historian..

“For decades, scholars have studied the astronomical observations that ancient indigenous people made and sought to understand their meaning,” LaPier wrote. Some communities that resided in North America expressed this knowledge by building special structures at specific places, like Cahokia in Illinois temple pyramids as well as mounds that resemble those the Aztecs constructed, that coincide with the sun’s solstice nights.

“Although some winter solstice traditions have changed over time, they are still a reminder of indigenous peoples’ understanding of the intricate workings of the solar system,” she wrote, as well as their “ancient understanding of the interconnectedness of the world.”

Awe-inspiring light

Ruben Mendoza the archaeologist in California State University, Monterey Bay discovered an unintentional discovery a few years ago in the church of a mission. In this space of worship, and many others Catholic missionaries constructed throughout the Spanish colonial era it is believed that the solstice of winter “triggers an extraordinary rare and fascinating event,” Mendoza said: “a sunbeam enters each of these churches and bathes an important religious object, altar, crucifix or saint’s statue in brilliant light.”

The missionaries were designed in order to bring Native Americans to Catholicism – people whose culture had throughout the ages were celebrating the solstice sun’s apparent victory over darkness. But the missions took the traditions of Native Americans in a fresh method, incorporating the sun’s symbolism into Christian message.

“These events offer us insights into archaeology, cosmology and Spanish colonial history,” Mendoza wrote. “As our own December holidays approach, they demonstrate the power of our instincts to guide us through the darkness toward the light.”

Victory over the darkness

Our next story takes us halfway across the world telling the Persian solstice celebration of Yalda. However, it’s in fact an American story. As a kid living in Minneapolis, anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi said she was somewhat out of place when the neighbors were celebrating Hanukkah as well as Christmas. Her grandmother was the one who introduced her to the family’s Yalda customs.

People from all over the globe are celebrating Yalda that is the time of sunrise following long nights. “Ancient Persians believed that evil forces were strongest on the longest and darkest night of the year,” wrote Mahdavi who is currently the provost at the University of Montana. Families stayed up all night, eating snacks and telling stories. They then celebrated “as the light spilled through the sky in the moment of dawn.”

Editor’s Note: This article is a collection of stories taken from the archives of The Conversation. The story is republished by The Conversation under an Creative Commons license. Check out this article in its original form.

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