There are two moments during the year when the path of the sun is farthest south in the Northern Hemisphere (December 21 or 22) and farthest north in the Southern Hemisphere (June 20 or 21). At the Winter Solstice, the sun travels the shortest daylight path with the longest night. In the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted 23.4° away from the sun and its vertical noon rays are directly over the Tropic Capricorn. Six months later, the South Pole is inclined 23.4° away from the sun and its vertical overhead rays progress over the Tropic of Cancer.
The ancient astronomical site, Newgrange, is a neolithic monument in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland. Constructed about 5,200 years ago, it is considered the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s ancient past, and its celebrated passage tomb.
At dawn on the Winter Solstice, a shaft of sunlight enters the “roof box” opening above the passage entrance. Its rays illuminate the entire 56 foot passage into the inner chamber, symbolizing nature’s renewed life to crops, animals and humans.
(Sunlight entering Newgrange through the roof box)
Celebrated by world cultures for thousands of years, this start of the solar year at the Winter Solstice, is a celebration of light, rebirth of the sun and renewal of all life. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel, and was celebrated in a series of rituals with music, feasts, and joyful social activities through the New Year. It continues in many cultures as a sacred alignment to peace and wellness.
For many NW Native Americans, New Year is a time to honor traditions; the renewal and new beginnings as longer days bring foods sacred to life.
In China and East Asia, the return of longer daylight and the increase of positive energy traces back to the yin/yang philosophy of balance and harmony, leading to the new moon, and starting their New Year.