Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice

Ellen Jackson
Illustrator:  Jan Davey Ellis 
For ages 7 to 9
Lerner, 1997   ISBN: 978-0761302971

Long ago people did not know what made some months colder than others. They did not know why the sun would hang so low in the sky in the winter and why the days grew so short. They would grow afraid that the sun would disappear all together and that they would all die of cold and starvation. And so, in an effort to protect themselves from the evil spirits that they were sure lurked in the darkness and to make sure that the sun would return, they held special ceremonies and rituals. In some cultures sacrifices would be made to appease the gods.

Over the centuries people have held all kinds of celebrations on or around the winter solstice. Gifts were exchanged, special foods were eaten, bonfires were lit, and unique ceremonies arose.

Today we know why winter is a colder season and are not frightened by it. We don’t usually have special ceremonies on the winter solstice any more but many of the traditions that used to be held on the solstice are now ones that we enjoy on Christmas or Hanukkah. Just like the Romans during their solstice celebrations we light candles, exchange gifts, and eat special foods. Like the people of Northern Europe we decorate our homes with evergreen and mistletoe.

As they read this book children will be interested to discover that so many of the traditions of their holiday season come from very ancient winter solstice traditions. The author looks at winter solstice ceremonies and rituals from around the world and she ends her narrative with a Cherokee solstice story.