The Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, which takes place on December 21, marks the shortest day of the year. Scientifically, it is the result of this part of the earth being tilted as far away from the sun as possible. Across many cultures, though, the solstice also holds great symbolic meaning. It signals the beginning of a period of change — a transition, from cold to warm, from dark to light. The days that follow the winter solstice gradually become longer.
Across the world, from Mexico to Hong Kong, people will be celebrating the occasion through traditions passed down for years. Some may even celebrate with their own newly formed customs. Here are some ways you can celebrate the winter solstice in Belize.
About the Winter Solstice
Also dubbed “the return of the sun”, the winter solstice has been celebrated for thousands of years. And the same can be said for its counterparts: the summer solstice and the autumnal and spring equinoxes. To the ancient Maya, the winter solstice represented a period for contemplating the blessings that would arrive with the coming spring.
In China, people will be ushering in the solstice with rice balls (tang yuan). In England, many will be gathering and Stonehenge to watch the sun rise. Here in Belize, and most other countries that were a part of the ancient Maya world, many will be honoring the years old traditions of the Maya.
Watch the Sunrise
Following the longest night of the year, wake up at dawn to watch the sunrise. While you do so, sip on your favorite tea blend, revel in the thought of the coming springtime, or simply sit and admire the sun’s beauty. In the midst of the often hectic holiday season, the winter solstice allows us to pause — to reconnect with the earth and its natural rhythms. Watching the sun crest over the horizon is one of the best ways to do this.
Reconnect with Nature
Belizean archaeologist Dr. Jaime Awe has said that the winter solstice is a time for reflection and considering future direction. And quite often, there is no better place to do that than within nature. Whether you choose to take a stroll through a garden, go for a hike, or step out onto the beach to listen to the ocean waves, the winter solstice is one of the best times to admire and reconnect with the beauty of nature.
Here in Belize, that’s fairly easy. Much of the country is either surrounded by lush green forest, or set beside shimmering blue seas. Belize also boats countless jade green rivers and streams, rolling hills, and even some tranquil gardens.
Visit a Maya Archaeological Site
In addition to immersing yourself in nature, immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of this dually Central American and Caribbean nation. Take a journey back in time by visiting one of the many maya sites that dot Belize’s mainland.
Like Chichen Itza in Mexico, Caracol, located in Western Belize, has long been a site used by the Maya to usher in the solstice. With a visit to a site like Caracol, you’re not only granted the chance to ponder the longstanding traditions of Belize’s indigenous people. But being surrounded by nature and the stillness of it all may allow you the opportunity to take part in another winter solstice tradition: setting your intentions for the coming year.
Featured Photo courtesy Blue Marlin Beach Resort