Top NewsWinter Solstice Celebrations Around the World: NPR

Winter Solstice Celebrations Around the World: NPR

On Yalta night, an Iranian winter solstice tradition, visitors gather with families and recite classic poems aloud to greet the returning sun.

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On Yalta night, an Iranian winter solstice tradition, visitors gather with families and recite classic poems aloud to greet the returning sun.

Jasmine Merton/Getty Images

It’s officially the start of a new season. The winter solstice, which falls on Thursday in the Northern Hemisphere, marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. Henceforth, the days become longer and the nights shorter.

This year, the solstice occurs 10:27 pm ETThe exact moment when the Earth reaches its maximum inclination from the Sun.

But while for some it may be a reason to go to bed early, for many the day calls for celebration. Since before recorded history, the winter solstice has represented a time of renewal and ritual for people around the world.

Here are some ancient winter solstice celebrations from both hemispheres and how they are marked.

Shab-e Yalta

For centuries, Iranians from around the world have gathered to celebrate the winter solstice Yalta, means birth or rebirth. The holiday dates back to the Zoroastrian tradition and is believed to be dedicated to the sun god Mithras. Celebrated in many Central Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, Yalda is a time when loved ones gather to eat, drink and recite poetry all night and welcome the sun. Nuts and fruits such as pomegranates and watermelons are symbolic because their red colors represent dawn and life. The holiday symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.

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Dongshi

In Chinese, Dongshi Literally means “coming of winter” and is one of the solar terms in the traditional Chinese calendar. occasion Marks a turning point in the year Yin Energy becomes positive energy which As the days grow. Traditionally celebrated during the Han Dynasty as the final festival of the harvest, today it is an important time to spend with family and eat a hearty meal. Tangyuan (glutinous rice balls) or dumplings, depending on which part of China one lives in.

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An actor plays an Inca emperor in a recreation of an ancient ritual during the Indi Remy festival in Cusco, Peru.

Jose Carlos Angulo/AFP via Getty Images


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An actor plays an Inca emperor in a recreation of an ancient ritual during the Indi Remy festival in Cusco, Peru.

Jose Carlos Angulo/AFP via Getty Images

Peru’s winter solstice is celebrated in June and honors the Incan sun god Hindi (Quechua for “sun”), a highly revered god in Inca religion. Prohibited during the first years of the Spanish conquest, Festival It is later resurrected and takes place in the city of Cuzco, which was now the center of the Incan Empire. Festivities include feasts honoring historical rituals and mock sacrifices.

Soyal

For the Native American Hopi tribe of the Southwest, Soyal festival One of the most important festivals of the year. December is the month when protective spirits are invoked Katsinas Bring the sun out of its long slumber. Lasting up to 16 days, the ceremonies include gift-giving, dancing and storytelling, and are often performed in sacred underground chambers. Kivas. The festival marks a time for prayer and purification.

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Monkeys sit in an orange spa for the winter solstice at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo in 2007. Orange spas are a Japanese winter solstice tradition.

Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP via Getty Images


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Monkeys sit in an orange spa for the winter solstice at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo in 2007. Orange spas are a Japanese winter solstice tradition.

Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP via Getty Images

In Japan, the winter solstice comes with many rituals and customs to welcome the return of the sun. A custom Hundreds of years ago it involved taking a hot bath Yuzu, a citrus fruit known for its healing properties. Other traditions include eating winter squash Kapochaand foods containing the “n” sound (eg udon), they are believed to bring good luck.

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