According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the exact point of the Winter Solstice was at 3.16 am today.
This means that last night was the longest night of the year, and that spring is coming. Hooray!
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs in December, just before 25 December, which is when many people around the world celebrate Xmas, or Christmas. This event has been marked and celebrated by people all over the world since ancient times. The pre-Christian Solstice celebrations honoured the longest night and saw it as marking the beginning of the return of the sun - or the rebirth of the Sun God.
Traditions, beliefs and customs from different civilisations have come together to create what many of us see as a 'traditional' Xmas, and many of these things come from the ancient celebrations held at, or around the time of, the Solstice.
I feel a bit strange celebrating elements of the festival of the longest night in the height of summer, when it feels like a time for celebrations that stem from the Summer Solstice - the shortest night. I try and avoid anything to do with snow, and snowmen and reindeer - although this becomes a bit more difficult with a small child for whom 'the magic of Xmas' is still real - and in Tasmania, it isn't uncommon for the weather to be winter-like on 25 December so, despite me rejecting the 'winter wonderland', it often doesn't feel like a time to be celebrating the sun.
Every year I think I'd like to do something special for the Winter Solstice - to mark the return of the sun - even if it's just cooking a traditional meal and marking the night with a candle, but somehow the day always seems to creep up on me and be gone before I've had a chance to plan anything. (Yes, lighting a candle is a difficult ask for me!) If I was really game, I'd stay up all night with a bonfire to see the sun rise on the shortest day (unfortunately it's been raining and it's very cold - it is winter after all - and I'm quite averse to pulling all-nighters).
Even so, I did see the sun rise this morning on the way to work, and what a beautiful sunrise it was.