Just Wingin’ It: Our Family’s Made-Up Traditions for the Winter Solstice

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “We’ll just wing it!” I’d be able to pay off my student loans, afford organic produce, and buy everything on page 32 of the Pottery Barn catalog. Whether it’s what we’re having for dinner tonight or our plans for the holidays, chances are our family is just wingin’ it.  Our loosey-goosey attitude towards holiday traditions (and life?) has actually led to some of my favorite memories of the winter season.  We’ve pieced together and simply made up some really fun, easy traditions to celebrate the Winter Solstice.

What is the Winter Solstice? 

Without getting super science-y, the Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year.  It marks the beginning of winter and has the least amount of daylight and the longest night.  We love to celebrate this day in our family, as well as its summer counterpart on the longest day of the year in June. 

When is the Winter Solstice?

December 21st at 4:23 p.m.  Or at least that’s what the first result of my Google search told me.  Last year the 21st didn’t really work with our schedule so we celebrated a few days before.  #Wingin’It

How do we celebrate the Solstice? 

You can research the wild things other people do to celebrate the solstice (cough cough take a bath in fruit), but we keep it pretty simple in our household.  We’ve slapped together snippets of traditions from other groups and cultures to come up with our own ways to observe such a unique day. 

Winter Solstice Traditions for the family

Here are the 3 things we do on the Solstice, and they’re all crazy easy. 

  • We eat dinner by candlelight.

I get out all of the unscented candles I can find and turn off the lights.  Our kitchen glows and we can typically see the bright moon out our window.  The kiddos think this is the coolest thing EVER and will ask to do it again for weeks afterwards.  There’s a 50/50 chance our Christmas tree is up by then and we’ll plug that in too to help illuminate the room.  It’s just a fun way to acknowledge that it’s, ya know, dark outside.

  • We feed the animals to help them make it through the long night.

In my head, we spend the day happily making peanut butter/birdseed ornaments and hang them in our trees in the backyard. In actuality, we throw fistfuls of birdseed off the deck in our pajamas.  Whatever gets the job done, am I right??

  • We buy new books.

I stole this idea from Iceland but I’m pretty sure they won’t mind.  In Iceland they celebrate Jolabokaflod, which means “Christmas Book Flood.”  On Christmas Eve you give the people you love new books and they spend the evening curled up by the fire reading.  How awesome does that sound?!  In our family, Christmas Eve is typically spent traveling or stressfully assembling new toys while trying to not wake up the kids. I took the spirit of Jolabokaflod and just scooted it over to the 21st instead.  We pick out any new book we want, and after our candlelit dinner and birdseed throwing, we settle down for some special reading time.  Thankfully even places like the grocery store sell books, so I can kill two birds with one Hyvee stone. 

AND THAT’S IT.  Don’t let the Winter Solstice get lost in the hustle and bustle of Christmas—do something fun to celebrate the shortest day of the year!  It can be easy (and completely made up) but guaranteed magical for both you and your children.  And remember: after December 21st the days start getting a teeny bit longer! That’s reason to celebrate!


Rebecca is a type-A wannabe with a pretty legit cookbook collection and likes a good Netflix binge. Her interests include sleep, napping, and snoozing her alarm. She is also a SAHM to two kiddoes (5, 2) and the proud wife of a resident at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She grew up in Milwaukee, WI but has also lived in Minnesota and Florida before coming to Iowa in 2014. Needless to say, she has a lot of teams represented in her t-shirt drawer! Rebecca worked in a preschool before deciding to stay home with her son so she loves to talk about education, children’s activities, and parenting littles. She stays active by teaching Wiggle Worms through the North Liberty Recreation Department and planning as many playdates as possible (Anyone free tomorrow at 10am??). On those rare nights when the stars align and the kids are asleep, the dishes are done, and the laundry is folded she likes to…yeah right, that never happens!


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