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Winter Solstice is a moment when the earth’s tilt causes the shortest day and longest night of the year. Since pagan days, it has traditionally meant the “year as reborn,” with ancient (and modern) Scandinavians fusing it into the longer Jul (or Yule) season.
The Winter Solstice is also known as the shortest day and longest night of the year and it usually takes place on December 21st every year in the Northern Hemisphere. Many cultures around the world celebrate the solstice by holding festivals, and holidays. These celebrations were created to celebrate the return of light, and the joy of each day growing longer and longer.
A recent Smithsonian article about Native American history also revealed that the Winter Solstice was a time of storytelling. After a long summer and fall of gathering food and supplies, Native Americans took full advantage of the long dark evenings by telling stories that would entertain and teach the children.
Another Fun Fact:
With all this in mind, here are some ways to celebrate the Solstice and maybe even create your own Jalobokaflod!
Winter Solstice Inspired Books for Kids
Snow Party: A Story of the Winter Solstice by Harriet Ziefert (for ages 4 and up)
The sweet and vibrant illustrations paint a whimsical wonderland of snow and magic. The concept is simple – a bunch of snow people gather together to throw an outdoor party to celebrate the shortest day of winter.
Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations around the World by Heather Conrad
Lights of Winter is a children’s picture book about winter celebrations around the world: Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, Teng Chieh, Diwali, Soyal, Las Posadas, Zagmuk, Saturnalia. For ages 3-9. Thirteen color illustrations.
Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here by Jean Craighead George (for ages 4 and up)
From a letter written by her grandmother, Rebecca learns that winter began on June 21, while she was cooling off under the hose. The northern half of the Earth began to grow cold, and the days grew shorter. The birds began to fly to the sunny underside of the Earth, and the groundhogs and bears went to sleep. But on December 22, summer will begin. Before long, Rebecca will take off her shoes and jump over bluebells.
NOTE: Check out our book review and activity for Jean Craighead George’s book, My Side of the Mountain, HERE.
A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen Shragg
It’s Christmas time all across America and Jenny is feeling left out. Her secular parents, born to different faiths that they no longer observe, don’t believe in celebrating Christmas. She never seemed to mind before, but this year it bothers her–maybe because they’re home and not on the Florida coast where they usually go at this time of the year to avoid the holiday hoopla. All around her the neighbors have decorated their houses with festive lights, while her house, by contrast, looks drab and uninviting during the long, cold winter nights. Feeling like an outsider, she wonders why her family needs to be so different! She talks with her mom and dad about their reasons for not observing the holidays.
Iliana: A Winter Solstice Tale by Walter Fordham (for ages 4 and up)
Iliana is the story of a young girl’s quest for the sun. As the days grow shorter, everyone around her is worried, and no one knows what to do. Determined to save her kingdom from darkness, Iliana sets off alone to find the sun. Her adventures take her to unexpected realms where she encounters magical friends who help her on her way and, in the end, she discovers more than she set out to find.
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren (for ages 4 and up)
The Tomten has been the source of several book reviews and activities here on JIAB even though it is not directly connected to the Winter Solstice. The story takes place on the darkest night of winter and tells the story of a prowling, hungry fox. It is a delightful bedtime story for children of all ages. We encourage parents to read this to children to help them feel safe and snug in their beds on a cold, dark winter’s night such as the solstice.
The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfiffer
Something To Do
Sometimes embracing and celebrating a short day with longer-than-normal-darkness is the best way to go! Something that pairs with reading nicely is baking and crafts. Here are some ideas:
Evening Tissue Paper Lantern Walk by Valarie Budayr
With nothing more than some tissue paper, a balloon and glue, your kids will welcome the shortest day of winter while toting their very own lantern.
As the nights grow longer, we can take advantage of this and create the opportunity to bring a little beautiful light into the world with our lanterns. Creating tissue paper lanterns is a creative activity the entire family can do together regardless of their ages.
I like evening walks. As the day winds down, an evening lantern walk is a way for us to share time together, reconnect and create a special way to bring the day to a close.
As a family, we also look forward to family craft time and the process of creating our lanterns has become a fun family tradition. Once our lanterns are done, we then spend a few moments planning our very special evening walk together.
Would you like to create your own Evening Paper Lantern Walk? Go HERE to download the instruction tutorial.
A Little Pinch of Perfect has a delightful twig/snowflake ornament craft that is perfect for celebrating winter.
Elisa Kleven’s Sun Bread Recipe
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, melted*
- 2 packages dry yeast (1 package = 2¼ teaspoons)
- 3 tablespoons lukewarm milk
- Mix eggs and sugar well.
- Combine flour and butter.
- Add the eggs mixture to the flour mixture and beat well.
- In a small bowl combine yeast and milk. Allow to stand until mixture is foamy, at least 5 minutes.
- Add the yeast mixture to the batter and stir. Knead dough on greased, floured surface for 8-10 minutes. (My dough is usually very sticky and buttery so I add ¼ to ½ cup more flour whenever I knead this dough.)
- Place dough in greased bowl, cover with a cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour (dough will be doubled in size).
- Gently deflate the dough, knead for 5 minutes, then separate into 2 portions.
- To form the sun’s face, shape one portion of the dough into a round, somewhat flattened ball, then place on a large greased (or covered with cornmeal) baking sheet. (I also used parchment paper.) With the greased end of a wooden spoon or with your finger, poke two “eyes” in the sun: draw a mouth with same way (I use a wide-lipped glass and press it gently into the dough). Make sure the lines are deep so they won’t close up during rising and baking. Make a nose by securely attaching a small ball of dough to its face.
- Make the corona of the sun by rolling one half of the remainder of the dough into four or five long “snakes.” Curl the snakes into puffy “snail” shapes. Shape the rest of the dough into four or five puffy triangles. Firmly attach the snails and triangles to the sun’s face. (Use some water if the dough is dry. My dough was very buttery and moist, so I did not need to.)
Cover the sun and let it rise again in a warm place for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. I sprinkled my sun’s corona with red salt and white sea salt. Bake for about 10-20 minutes.** Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the bread. It should come out clean.