Pack Your Bags! These Are the 8 Best Spots to Celebrate the Winter Solstice
Your cozy outfit and the temperature outside where you live might be saying it's already Winter, but in reality, the Winter solstice won't happen until Dec. 21. On that day, the sun is in its most southerly position in the sky, and while it does mark the beginning of the year's coldest season, the day is cause for celebration: all the days following will subsequently get longer. Slowly, yes, but more vitamin D will come your way nonetheless.
The phenomenon leads to some pretty epic parties around the world. Different cultures have been celebrating the solstice in their own unique ways for centuries, some even millennia. So whether you're looking to catch a glimpse at celestial wonders or rock out alongside fire dancers until sunrise, we're bringing you eight fantastic places around the world from which to welcome the frosty season.
On the evening of the solstice, more than 20,000 people — a combination of marchers and spectators — gather in Brighton to mark the end of the year and the passage of time. Called the Burning of the Clocks, paraders make their own paper and willow lanterns and march through the streets before finally casting them into a huge bonfire on Brighton Beach.
On the other side of the country, Toronto is also illuminating the night with a fantastic display of fire and lanterns. The Kensington Market Winter Solstice hosts an annual parade and festival of lights, complete with oversize puppets, fire dancers, musicians, extravagant costumes, and lanterns galore.
Stonehenge hosts one of the world's longest-running and most famous celebrations of both the Summer and Winter solstices. Located about 90 miles outside of London, this prehistoric monument was carefully constructed on a line that points to the Winter solstice sunset. The following day, thousands gather from around the world at first light to watch in silence as the sun rises over the stones.
While Iceland may not boast blazing bonfires or fire dancers to commemorate the occasion, what better place to welcome Winter than a snow-capped wonderland with the Northern Lights dancing over your head? December is the darkest month of the year on the frosty island, but you can warm up in one of the country's famous natural hot springs and admire the beautiful Christmas lights reflecting in the snow.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
While the Spring and Fall equinoxes get most of the glory at the ancient Chichen Itza ruins (the sun casts a shadow over El Castillo that appears like a snake cascading down the side of the pyramid), the Winter solstice has its own optical illusion. If you're facing the pyramid from the western side, the sun appears to roll up the structure as it's rising before finally being cast off into the morning sky. Plus, if you're not too keen on the cold, escaping to a tropical getaway this December doesn't sound half bad either.
Park City, Utah
If you're not one for flashy celebrations but would rather spend the darkest night of the year sipping hot toddies and relaxing in a hot tub, then Park City is an A+ relaxation destination. This idyllic Winter retreat in Utah looks like it came to life from a painting. Hit the newly opened ski slopes in the morning, then sit down for a candlelit Winter solstice feast at Mindful Cuisine.
The Winter solstice is a big deal in the Scandinavian countries. There are a variety of commemorative events — including the famous St. Lucia's Day, a celebration of the Christian martyr, in Sweden, Norway, and Finland — and the pristine countryside blanketed with snow is quite a sight to behold. Stay in one of Sweden or Finland's famous ice hotels or venture into the arctic circle for an aurora borealis light show.