Originally published: 6/19/2020

This month, as with every December, festivals and rituals will be held around the world to mark the astronomical beginning of winter – known as the winter solstice.

The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, is often referred to as the “turning of the Sun,” and is the moment when we start to move into longer, warmer and sunnier days. It’s a chance to focus on brighter times ahead.

This year, the winter solstice will be on December 21 at 4:48 PM  EST, when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.4 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year. Conversely, in the Southern Hemisphere, the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn during the December solstice, and is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year.

The term “solstice” derives from the Latin word “solstitium,” meaning “Sun standing still.” On this day, the Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction as it reaches its southernmost position as seen from the Earth.

Traditional celebrations around the world

Celebrations of the solstice and the lighter days to come have been common throughout history, with feasts, festivals and holidays celebrated by cultures around the globe.

People still travel yearly to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, where a huge stone circle was built in three phases from 3000 BC to 1600 BC. This mysterious prehistoric monument’s purpose has never been conclusively settled, though many believe it was built at least partially to track the seasons.

In Vancouver, BC, Canada, residents mark the winter solstice each year with a lantern festival. Now in its 29th year, the Secret Lantern Society organizes the event across several locations – to allow people to gather and mark the passage of the seasons and the return of the Sun. The celebrations include processions, light and fire shows, and singing and drumming.

Meanwhile, Chapel Hill in North Carolina offers a truly unique winter solstice celebration, hosted by the Eco-Institute at Pickard’s Mountain.

The Spiral of Light is a community event where attendees take a meditative walk and light a candle from within a spiral of evergreen boughs and candles. They then return from the center, adding it to the end of the spiral and helping it grow. The ceremony helps bring light into the darkness, and symbolizes the light change on a global scale.

Solstice 2022: celebrating light of a different kind

Since the pandemic began many solstice celebrations began being made available to stream online,  to ensure those wishing to celebrate the winter solstice can do so wherever they maybe. The December solstice gathering at Stonehenge has returned to in-person this year, it will also be live-streamed from the stones on the morning of December 22st.

This year, the winter solstice is not just a chance to celebrate the return of daylight – it’s also a chance to look to brighter times ahead.

And, as we look forward to those brighter times, it’s an opportunity to take stock, to make future plans, and to make sure we’re insured for a brighter future. A survey conducted by New York Life and Ipsos Mori in 2019 found that Millennial parents are more focused on near-term debt reduction than other generations, but they are also most optimistic and aware of the need to plan ahead. A life insurance policy will ensure that your family is taken care of with enough money to pay off any debts and cover bills and daily expenses no matter what.

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Media contact
Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-6955

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