Winter Solstice, or Yule as it is sometimes called, is a holiday that has been celebrated since ancient times in December. It’s a great day to gather with loved ones, decorate for the holidays, and enjoy good food together before everyone begins traveling for other holiday obligations. Having your own Winter Solstice celebration can be really fun and easy. It’s such a charming and significant way to mark the new season, and it’s something everyone can relate to.
What is Winter Solstice?
Winter Solstice is traditionally the calendar date of the official start of winter. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year, usually happening in the Northern Hemisphere on December 21 or 22. It is still celebrated in cultures around the world as a day of honoring the end of the year, beginning of winter, and reminiscing about the past year.
Winter Solstice Party Checklist:
Winter Solstice, customarily, is a release of the dark and bringing in of the light! Make sure to have lots of warm candlelight, and, of course, Christmas lights around the tree work fantastically to set the mood for an inviting party. If you’re afraid of using real candles everywhere, as I am sometimes with little ones running all over, opt for some of the LED flicker candles to help out.
It’s the start of winter! Everyone is feeling a little chilly and needs something to warm their belly and soul. Break out some traditional Wassail and Mulled Wine! Or even some hot cocoa for the kids.
Wassail is a hot mulled punch made from cider and other spices. You can make your own in a slow cooker with this awesome recipe from Raising Generation Nourished.
Or, if you’re close to a Trader Joe’s they sell bottled Wassail seasonally, and I can personally tell you it is delicious, and my kids even like it.
Mulled Wine is another great warm drink you can make at home in a slow cooker, my favorite recipe is this easy one from Gimme Some Oven. It’s literally like a warm cup of holiday cheer.
Hot cocoa is everyone’s favorite cold-weather drink and easy to make homemade, or you can just set out a tray with packets of cocoa, hot water, and marshmallows, for an easy hot chocolate bar that kids will love!
Winter Solstice dinner is usually filled with game meats, mostly wild boar and berries and root vegetables from the fall harvest that have been preserved. If you live in the suburbs, it can be a little hard to get your hands on wild game and preserves though, so a holiday ham, is a great alternative.
After getting all your meat and veggies in, it’s time for dessert. Preserved apples and oranges are classically used during Winter Solstice since they were harvested just at the end of the fall season, and luckily, we still use them as a sign of holiday warmth in modern times.
And it wouldn’t be Yuletide without a Yule Log! I’m all about making a roll cake as easy as possible for me, and this one from Betty Crocker is easy and delicious, and perfect for beginners if you’ve never made a Yule log before!
My friends don’t usually need any more activity than getting together for a good meal, drinks, and conversation, but I know my kids always need something to do. Traditionally, you would decorate your tree on this night, but I know a lot of people (including myself) decorate their tree way before December 21. That doesn’t mean you can’t make a couple more special ornaments to hang that night.
Take dried orange and apple slices (that you can buy or make yourself in the oven by preheating it to 200 degrees, lining a baking sheet with parchment paper, and baking the fruit for an hour on each side or until they’re dry and crispy). I like to add a little clove or cinnamon to them so they smell even better, and as a bonus, any that break can be a tasty snack. Once they’ve cooled, string a ribbon through the center with a couple of small bells and hang on your tree inside or hang them outside for the birds and squirrels.
Speaking of outside, the custom of burning a yule log was originally a Nordic tradition where they would bring the whole tree into their home, cut off the bottom to burn, and then slowly cut and burn the rest of the tree for the rest of the year, or as we would know it, The 12 Days of Christmas. I am not personally going to cut down a whole tree and slowly burn it away until New Year’s, but I love having fires during cold weather, so if you have a fireplace, start it up! We have a fire pit in our backyard, so my kids love to roast marshmallows and keep cozy by the fire for a while before bed.
The first year we didn’t go back to our home state for Christmas was a little hard for me. I’m very close with my family, and I wanted to make the holidays special for my children. Having a Winter Solstice Party has made a great new family tradition for us and our friends, and I hope you can try to celebrate this year as well.