The winter solstice, that longest night of the year, is upon us. And as with any change of season, it will be celebrated in a variety of ways around the world. Of course, Stonehenge is one of the most highly prized locations to be on the solstice because of how the stones create a perfect sightline to the winter solstice sunset. A similar occurrence is celebrated at the stone age burial mound in Newgrange, Ireland. And all across northern Europe folks celebrate the solstice with wacky Krampus festivities. Krampus is that creepy half-demon, half-goat anti-Santa Claus who punishes bad children. The traditional Krampus parade is believed to ward off bad spirits near the winter solstice. (In case you want to make your own Krampus hat, check out this free pattern).
Apparently, ages ago special market days were held just before the solstice to allow village folk to stock up on extra supplies to last through winter. Over time, these winter markets gave way to bustling Christmas markets selling special handcrafted gifts and local delicacies and treats. Famed Christmas markets like the one in Nuremberg, Germany, the Tivoli Christmas market in Copenhagen, and one of my favorites, the Tallinn Christmas market in Estonia are still thriving today. And now you’ll find these holiday markets around the world, in Dubai, Mexico City, or Singapore. The Santurantikuy Christmas market in Cusco, Peru, has been a Christmas Eve tradition for over five hundred years. Artisans set up on the Plaza de Armas early in the morning on December 24th and sell their ceramics and textiles and other artisanal goods until the evening.
Tonight, I’ll gather with good friends as I do each winter solstice; we’ll dance around a small fire, drinking in our fill of light as the darkness dwindles. I hope you find a touch of light for the longest night of the year as well and warmth and color and handcrafted blessings for the whole season.