How the winter solstice is celebrated around the globe

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Winter Solstice

Yesterday was Australia’s shortest day or the longest night of the year, here is how the winter solstice is celebrated around the world.

In Antarctica, adventurers jump into a pool cut into the sea ice. At this time of year, the water temperature is about -2 degrees Celsius, which is very close to the freezing point for seawater.

This tradition is also mirrored in Tasmania, where hundreds of people take part in the Nude Solstice Swim at Long Beach in the Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay as part of the Dark Mofo festival.

In Australia lantern festivals take place, bringing families and friends together to put their DIY skills to the test.

Japan’s winter solstice, also called Toji, has a zesty tradition: a yuzu bath. Yuzu is a citrus fruit and plant found in East Asia.

In Brighton, England they celebrate with the Burning of the Clocks festival. Where people wear costumes and carry lanterns representing clocks, they then burn the clocks in a bonfire.

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Today is Australia’s shortest day of 2022 — or the longest night of the year, depending on how you want to look at it.

Sydney will experience just nine hours and 53 minutes of daylight today. Further south, Hobart will see the sun for just nine hours.

Compare this to the summer solstice, December 22, which will get four-and-a-half hours more daylight.

Here are some ways the winter solstice has been celebrated.

Look up

Tim Bedding, an astronomer at the University of Sydney, suggested getting up before the sun for a bit of star gazing.

Look east just before the crack of dawn and you’ll see bright Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and maybe even Mercury in a straight line.

“As far as astronomers are concerned, the winter solstice is a great time because we have the most night time and astronomers love night time,” Professor Bedding said.

“So if you like looking at the stars, it’s a perfect time of year.”

Take an icy dip

In Antarctica, expeditioners jump into a pool cut into the sea ice.

At this time of year, the water temperature is about -2 degrees Celsius, which is very close to the freezing point for seawater.

People will strip right down to their swimwear — think budgie smugglers or bikinis — and plunge into the icy water.

“It just gives you such a rush and I think it’s adrenaline or something but it just charges you for a couple of days. It’s amazing,” said Lisa Wilkinson, an electrician who was stationed in Antarctica in 2020.

A machine digs out an icy pool in the middle of Antarctica
Serious machinery is needed to cut into the Antarctic ice. (Supplied: AAD)

This tradition is also mirrored in Tasmania, where hundreds of people take part in the Nude Solstice Swim at Long Beach in the Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay as part of the Dark Mofo festival.

Last year, the air temperature was 3C and the water temperature was about 13C.

This year’s swim will take place on Wednesday, kicking off at a fresh 7:42am.

People run into the water, naked.
It’s slightly warmer in Tasmania than Antarctica, but the water is still quite fresh for the Nude Solstice Swim. (ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Light up the night sky

If there’s one way to welcome in the darkness on the longest night of the year, it’s with lanterns.

During the winter solstice, lantern festivals take place across Australia, bringing families and friends together to put their DIY skills to the test.

With an endless supply of tissue paper, wire and battery tea light candles, many of these festivals offer free lantern-making workshops.

Now, you can live out your very own version of that scene from Tangled — you know the one.

White paper lanterns floating into the night sky
Many festivals across Australia offer free lantern-making workshops.(Supplied: Unsplash)

Take a hot bath — with citrus fruits

Japan’s winter solstice, also called Toji, has a zesty tradition: a yuzu bath.

Yuzu is a citrus fruit and plant found in East Asia.

Combine its fresh, citrusy aroma with a steaming hot bath and you’ve got a way to relax your body, relieve stress and soothe sore muscles.

The internet’s favourite rodent — capybaras — also love yuzu baths.

In a modern twist on the tradition, some Japanese zoos throw the fruit into the steaming waters the animals soak in.

A capybara sits in a hot bath surrounded by yuzu fruits.
A modern twist on the age-old tradition.(Supplied: Izu Shaboten Zoo)

Burn back time

Burning of the Clocks is a winter solstice festival in Brighton, England.

People wear costumes and carry lanterns representing clocks. But that’s not all.

The lanterns are then burned in a massive bonfire, which is meant to symbolise the wishes, hopes and fears that will be passed into the flames.

People attending the Burning of the Clocks festival at night in Brighton, England

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