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Celebrating Solstice

Winter officially arrives on this shortest day of the year

There's a forecast for 100% chance of rain this evening, a typical West Coast herald to the arrival of winter, which officially lands at 7:27 p.m.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the word 'solstice' derives from the Latin terms for sun (sol) and stopped (stilt), referring to the sense that the sun appears to stop in the sky twice a year. Of course, the sun doesn't stop, and the earth continues to move, axis tilted at 23.4 degrees, accounting for the difference of seasons and hours of sunlight.

All the same, humanity has celebrated the solstice since long before recorded history. The configuration of monoliths at Stonehenge was arranged to frame the setting sun on the shortest night of the year. But here on the other side of the world from that ancient monument, why would we celebrate this dampish, dark day?

The best reason is that after tonight, slowly but surely the days will lengthen again, and before we know it, we won't have to haul our garbage bins to the road in total darkness on a Friday morning.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a week-long party that many believe led to contemporary Christmas festivities. In China, Dongzhi, a traditional festival with its origins in yin and yang and the balance of the seasons, is still celebrated today. And in Latvia, the winter solstice is celebrated when townspeople parade through Riga, towing a log representing all the misfortunes of the past year, which is then burned in the centre of the city's Old Town.

Tonight, 'round the northern hemisphere, people will light lanterns, dance around fires, and lift a glass to the gradual return of the light. However you choose to celebrate, we here at The Watershed wish you the best of the holiday season.

Have thoughts to share about the season? Leave a comment below, or email us at

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