This upcoming Monday will be the longest night of the year. That’s right—it’s the Winter Solstice! December 21 not only marks the official first day of winter but also indicates that the daylight hours will only increase from here on out. Read on for some fun ideas to celebrate the occasion with your family and your troop.
Work on a Space Science Badge
Ever wonder why we have short days in the winter and long days in the summer? The sun is the key. We experience two solstices every calendar year, one in December and the other in June. Though these solstices happen at the same time across the globe, what season that solstice brings depends on which side of the equator you live on. While the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, the southern hemisphere is tilted towards it (That’s why it’s currently summer in Australia!) Find out more about solstices by working on a space science badge with your troop.
Go on a Flashlight Walk
The Winter Solstice actually coincides with another holiday. It’s also National Flashlight Day on Monday—who knew? Observe both by going on a flashlight (or headlamp) walk through your neighborhood after dark. Your usual jaunt around the block might feel very different once the sun sets—maybe some nocturnal animals are out, or more natural sounds are evident in the hush of the evening.
Create a Mini Stonehenge
Every December, thousands of visitors flock to England to witness the sun rising through the Neolithic Stonehenge after the longest night of the year. For ancient cultures who relied on agriculture to survive, the return of the sun was a very big deal. The longer days meant the weather would turn for the better soon, bringing warmth and plentiful harvests. Use salt or sand dough to build your own mini Stonehenge—you could even use a flashlight or a lamp to mimic the sun’s path. Then, stay up late (or get up super early) to livestream the sun rising on the real Stonehenge.
Enjoy Solstice Sustenance
Different countries and cultures around the world also observe the Winter Solstice. Many of these festivities involve special and symbolic food. Why not sample some that are new to you and your troop? On Shab-e Yalda (Yalda Night), Iranians celebrate the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness. It’s common to eat pomegranates, watermelon, and persimmons, along with rice and other types of dried fruit and nuts. On Donjitnal and Dongzhi, celebrated in parts of East Asia, families will gather to make and eat patjuk and tang yuan.
Make Ice Lanterns
In the depths of winter, one of the things I look forward to the most is seeing the Chain of Lakes lit up during the Luminary Loppet. If you’ve never had the chance to see the glowing lakes, you can still recreate their beauty at home with DIY ice lanterns. You truly only need some tin cans and tape, but you can also spruce them up with some natural objects like holly, cedar, or juniper clippings.
It’s been a long (looooong) year. As 2020 draws to a close, the metaphor of the end of the dark times and the beginning of sunnier days couldn’t be more fitting. So, bundle up and go outside to reconnect with nature or stay in and light some candles—however you choose to celebrate the winter solstice, let’s hope that 2021 shines a little brighter for all of us.
Lily Yu – Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (And rescue dog, Neil!).