If there’s one thing that December is known for, it’s the packed holiday season. There are endless parties and shopping, and then there are the end-of-the-year holidays themselves: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and more.
Amidst all the hustle and bustle, there’s one celebration that tends to get overlooked: the Winter Solstice, which is the oldest of them all. The solstice is the shortest day of the year, and was traditionally viewed as a time of reflection and rebirth. Not only do many of the modern December holidays have roots in the solstice, but cultures from around the world have celebrated the event since ancient times.
This year’s solstice is happening this week, on December 22, and one of the more interesting modern celebrations is Canada’s Winter Solstice Lantern Festival. It occurs each year in Vancouver on December 21, and features lantern labyrinths, lantern-lit drumming parades, fires, music and more.
The Secret Lantern Society is hosting free celebratory events in several neighborhoods. According to the website, visitors can “celebrate this free community event with a glowing constellation of lanterns shining in five Vancouver neighbourhoods. These five little festivals are community-based and reflect the unique nature of each neighbourhood. Intimate and accessible, each invites your participation. Wherever you wind up, we hope you feel connected to your community and to the universal spirit of celebration!”
There will be two lantern labyrinths this year, which are created with more than 700 beeswax candles, and used for meditation, prayer and celebration. Per the Society, “the winter solstice labyrinth invites you to warm yourself in a self-guided ceremony intended to help release old attachments and envision new possibilities as the darkest night of the year births a new season.”
That sounds like a beautiful tradition, and a wonderful way to welcome a new year. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, please check it out and then let us know how you liked it!