Bolivian President Evo Morales takes part in a winter solstice celebration at Samaipata Fort, an archeological site located 120km away from Santa Cruz city, Bolivia. The winter solstice, called Morning Bright Star in Guarani culture, was declared a national holiday in 2009 by Morales' government. During the winter solstice, representatives of the most important ethnic groups in the country, like Aymara, Quechua and Guarani, meet in the archeological ruins of Samaipata Fort.
Crowds wait for the sun to rise at Mission San Juan Bautista, California. Parishioners gather for what has come to be known as an "illumination," a brief, breathtaking interval when a sunbeam penetrates the church’s front window to bathe the altar and the sacred objects around it in a blazing patch of light.
Chen Xiaodong/Tribune News Service
Residents attend a dumpling making contest to celebrate winter solstice in Zhangjiakou, north China's Hebei Province. Chinese people regard the winter solstice, which marks the beginning of the coldest period, as a golden opportunity for family reunions and a big meal. Dumplings and tangyuan, small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour and sweet fillings, are must-have traditional food on the day in respective north and south China.
The Fiesta de Santo Tomas is a major annual cultural event lasting eight days in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. It includes colonial dances like the Dance of the Little Bull and veneration of three saints in the Church of Santo Tomas, with ritual removal of the saints’ effigies to the houses of Cofradias and back with corteges of faithful marching to the music of pipe an drum and firecrackers.
People buy nuts for Yalda Night in Tehran, Iran. Eating nuts and watermelon is a tradition during Yalda. It is celebrated on the longest night of a year, which is locally believed to be on Dec. 21, the eve of winter solstice.
The Japanese focus on starting the year with good health and good luck. Many mark the occasion by lighting bonfires on Mount Fuji each Dec. 22 to encourage the sun’s return.
The Zuni, Native American Pueblo peoples in western New Mexico, believe that the winter solstice indicates the start of a new year. After fasting and praying for days leading up to the solstice, the Pekwin (“Sun Priest”) traditionally announces the exact moment of itiwanna, the rebirth of the sun. And so beings a ceremonial dance called Shalako.
Dancers in traditional costume celebrate the winter solstice at the Inti Raymi Festival. It commemorates the shortest day of the year in terms of the time between sunrise and sunset and the Inca New Year.
People gather at Stonehenge in Wiltshire on the winter solstice to witness the sunrise on the shortest day of the year. The annual event marks the point at which the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun.
This traditional festival of lights honors one of the earliest Christian martyrs, St. Lucia, and was connected to earlier Norse solstice traditions after many converted to Christianity in 1000 A.D. A girl that is elected to impersonate Lucia wears a crown of candles on her head and leads the procession. The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take Lucia's life when she was sentenced to be burned.
Performers play with fire during the Kensington Market Winter Solstice Festival in Toronto, Canada. With lanterns, fire and unique performances, the Toronto's traditional event celebrate the longest night of the year.
Residents hold their self-made lanterns during the annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival in Vancouver, Canada. People in different communities participated in the annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival in Vancouver to celebrate the longest night of the year.