Are you tired of these cold, dark days when the sun goes down at 4 p.m. and doesn’t reappear until about 7 a.m.? Then you should celebrate the Winter Solstice on Thursday, Dec. 21! Sure, it is the longest night of the year, but it also marks the coming of more sunlight in the days that follow.
Throughout history, people around the world have held festivals to celebrate the winter solstice, which is considered to be a time of rebirth and renewal. According to History.com, fire is a big part of winter celebrations in many cultures. At winter solstice bonfires here in Wisconsin, you can write down your wishes for the new year on a strip of paper and cast them into the fire with the hopes that they may come true.
If you are looking to celebrate the winter solstice, Madison is the right place to do it. Many winter solstice celebrations are happening in our area, including bonfires, nature walks, religious and spiritual ceremonies, and concerts. Most of the events listed here are FREE, but a few do ask for a modest donation.
Madison Christian Community, 7118 Old Sauk Rd.
2 – 7 p.m.
Take time to reflect on this winter solstice as you walk the indoor or outdoor labyrinths at Madison Christian Community. This event is FREE, but a $5 donation is appreciated.
Donald Park, 1945 State Highway 92, Mount Horeb
Flicker Wild Church invites you to a winter solstice pop-up event in Mount Horeb. Watch the sunset and then enjoy a bonfire with friends on the longest night of the year.
Olbrich Park, 3527 Atwood Ave.
4 – 5:30 p.m.
Throw your wish for the new year into a bonfire at this annual event sponsored by the SASY Neighborhood Association and the Friends of Starkweather Creek. Elmore’s Drum Circle will provide music, and you can fill your mugs with cider or hot chocolate donated by Willy Street Co-op and Jenifer Street Market.
MYArts Starlight Theater, 1055 E. Mifflin St.
This holiday concert for the Madison Cello Ensemble is a fundraiser to benefit Aldo Leopold’s youth nature programming, Ukrainian children’s hospitals, and the local Bird-Bear Music Scholarship. A reception with door prizes starts at 5 p.m., and the music begins at 7 p.m. Donations are required for admission to the concert.
UW-Madison Arboretum Visitor Center, 2880 Longenecker Dr.
4 – 5:30 p.m.
Celebrate this winter solstice by surrounding yourself with nature at the UW-Madison Arboretum. A naturalist will lead you on the trails through the Arboretum. Registration is required for this FREE event, and space is limited.
Zwingli UCC Mount Vernon, 1693 Washington St., Verona
Friends and neighbors are invited for caroling, story-telling, poetry, and more at the Winter Solstice Community Bonfire and Carol Sing in Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon is located about 20 miles southwest of Madison at the crossroads of State Highway 92 and County Road G.
McFarland United Church of Christ, 5710 Anthony St., McFarland
6 – 7 p.m.
Christian Pastor Brian Sirchio of McFarland United Church of Christ and Shamanic practitioners Trish Kalhagen of Sacred Moments and Jessica Riphenburg of Be The Light Shamanic Healing come together for a “unifying ceremony for celebration & healing” on the winter solstice. Attendees are welcome to bring a drum or rattle to join in the festivities.
Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 E. Gorham St.
6:15 – 7 p.m.
Bring your kids dressed in their PJs to this 45-minute “lullaby” concert to celebrate the winter solstice. You are welcome to bring pillows, blankets, or sleeping bags to get comfortable while listening to music by the Chancel Choir.
Grand Inspired Gallery, 501 East Main St., Stoughton
7:30 – 8:30 p.m.
This is an annual concert held by the Stoughton Chamber Music Festival. It features music from a string quartet. No tickets are required for the event, but there is a “suggested donation” at the door to support the musicians. In 2022, that donation was $10.
Winter Solstice Events Happening This Weekend
Pheasant Branch Encampment, 4900 Pheasant Branch Rd., Middleton
Saturday, Dec. 23 at 1:30 p.m.
Learn about winter solstice and walk the trails at Pheasant Branch for the FREE family-friendly event. Master naturalist Kathlean Wolf will lead the way and tell you about ancient solstice traditions and how shorter days affect animals and birds.
James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 2146 E. Johnson St.
Saturday, Dec. 23 at 5 p.m.
All are invited to attend, either in person or on Zoom, this annual celebration held by the James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Music will be provided by Jennifer Hedstrom and the JRUUC Sacred Breath Choir.