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Celebrate the Winter Solstice in the Forest Preserves of Cook County

people looking at a bonfire at Camp Dan Beard

The winter solstice marks the official start of winter on Saturday, Dec. 21, and the Forest Preserves of Cook County offers several opportunities to celebrate the new season in nature.

The winter solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted the farthest away from the Sun and gives the Northern Hemisphere its shortest day of the year. The farther north, the shorter the day. Chicago will receive about nine hours and seven minutes of daylight on Dec. 21, compared to Anchorage, Alaska, which will receive only five hours and 27 minutes of daylight.

Festivals, rituals, forgiveness, feasting and fire mark winter solstice in many cultures, according to Trailside Museum of Natural History assistant director Irene Flebbe.

“It is said that the date marks the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun; fires are lit to symbolize the heat and light of the returning sun,” she says. “In short, the winter solstice is a celebration of nature’s continuing cycles.”

Trailside is hosting two winter solstice events, a storytelling event and a nature hike, this month in River Forest. Events and programs to celebrate the winter solstice will also be offered at Crabtree, River Trail and Little Red Schoolhouse nature centers

Crabtree assistant director Karen Holmes said the nature center invites guests to gather around a fire to sip hot cocoa and learn more about the cultural and natural connections to the winter solstice.

“It is also an opportunity to celebrate that we are all children of the sun,” Holmes said.

Winter Solstice Events

Check out these other great events and programs: