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Winter Solstice—Celebrating the Return of the Sun, the Source of Our Food Supply

Debra Redalia


At Winter Solstice, the sun rises between two pillars at Stonehenge, marking the day when days will become longer and plants will begin to grow, bringing the return of food in the coming year.

Today is Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Tomorrow morning when the sun rises it will be the first day that the days become longer. Tomorrow is only a few seconds longer here where I live, but as the days become longer and longer, eventually, six months from now on the Summer Solstice, the length of days will be increased by hours.

The importance of this is that all food on the planet required the sun to exist.

We don’t think of this much in our today’s world where we have a constant supply of food from the supermarket, but in times past when there were no supermarkets and no farming, humans obtained their food from their local ecosystems. So everyone was eating seasonal plants and animals.

During the dark days of winter, there wasn’t much food, and so Winter Solstice was the most important day of the year. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that the days would be longer and there would be more sun. The plants would come out of their underground slumber and grow and produce food again. Birds would lay eggs in the spring. Animals would be born.

Winter Solstice perhaps became known as “the dead of winter” because the Earth was not producing food at this time.

This was so important to early societies that they actually built stone monuments such as Stonehenge to mark the day when winter would turn around and the days would start getting longer. This wasn’t just a ritualistic thing. They needed to know the day when the sun would begin to bring back the food.

I’ve been celebrating Winter Solstice for more than three decades just as a marker of natural time. It is only this year that I have become aware of the association between Winter Solstice and our food supply.

Even though we live in a world where we have an industrial food supply that makes food available even during times when it is not growing, still, all that food that gets funneled into the industrial food supply still comes from the Earth, it’s growth the result of plants reaching for the sun. Even the life of animals is regulated by the sun because they eat plants.

So tomorrow morning, when the sun rises, I’m going to give thanks that the sun has returned for another year, and by doing so, we get to have food to eat and our bodies get to live.