The winter solstice shows off a rare sky show, Dec. 21

Oak Mountain State Park
Star light, star bright. Photo via Oak Mountain State Park’s Facebook

Winter Solstice 2020 and the “great conjunction” coincide with each other this year on Monday, December 21. Read on to learn what they’re all about, plus ways to celebrate in Birmingham.

What’s the winter solstice all about?

The winter solstice marks the onset of winter at the time of the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year. This year, it falls on Monday, December 21.

Originally a pagan celebration, the winter solstice is observed by many cultures in a variety of ways, such as festivals, spending time with loved ones, feasting, singing, dancing and fires. Could it fit in anymore perfectly with the holiday season?

Now, onto the list of ways you can celebrate the winter solstice in Birmingham.

Celebrate in Candlelight

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. The hours still add up the same, but daylight slips away at rapid speed, which is why it is known as the longest night of the year.

Due to the lack of light, the use of candles is one of the solstice’s original traditions. Not only do they provide much-needed light, but they are also used as a way to celebrate the return of the sun in the coming months.

Okay, so obviously electricity was invented long ago and you can just flip on a light switch. But I have a few ideas that are much cooler and will personally save you a few bucks on your electric bill.

Stock up on candles

Crave Candles Co
Photo via Crave Candles Co’s Facebook

If you dig candles, Birmingham has many local candle shops with all the colors and aromas you could ever dream of. To light up the night, stock up on candles from these stores:

Glow up at Glow Wild

Glow Wild
Glow Wild 2020. Photo via The Birmingham Zoo

The Birmingham Zoo brought us something new this holiday season—and it’s sure to wow even the grinchiest of the grinches. Alight your soul with Glow Wild: An Animal Lanter Celebration.

From pandas and elephants to polar bears and whales, discover soul-lighting lantern creations of wildlife from around the world, some stretching up to 30 ft. high.

When: Now-January 18, 2021
The Birmingham Zoo, 2630 Cahaba Rd, Birmingham, AL 35223

Magic of Lights: Vulcan’s Holiday Light Experience

Light up your soul at the Vulcan. Photo via Vulcan Park and Museum

Love a good light show? You can’t beat Magic of Lights: Vulcan’s Holiday Light Experience.

At the top of each hour, beginning at 5PM, enjoy an upbeat array of dancing lights, choreographed to holiday music and displayed on everyone’s favorite statue dude—Vulcan.

The Anvil and Museum will offer extended hours with complimentary hot chocolate, too.

What: A 15-minute lively array of dancing lights choreographed to delightful holiday music
When: Now–December 23 from 5-9PM
Where: Vulcan Park and Museum,
$6 (ages 13+) | $4 (ages 5-12) | FREE (ages 4 and under)

Tap into some relaxation

Magic City Meditations
Photo via Magic City Meditations’ Facebook

There’s no question that the year 2020 has been quite the kerfunkle. What better time than the longest night of the year to reflect on what the new season and year will bring you.

For a focus-led meditation, take part in the Winter Solstice 2020 Celebration with Magic City Meditations.

What: A celebration of the Winter Solstice with a Burning Bowl + Cacao Ceremony, crystal + light meditation, sound bowls + Reiki to reset your light body, mind + spirit.
When: Monday, December 21 at 6:30PM
Where: Magic City Meditations, 704 37th St S, Birmingham, AL 35222
Price: $45
Sign up here

Get Cozy

ireneoncouch The winter solstice shows off a rare sky show, Dec. 21
Hoodies, blankets and a cat. The trifecta of coziness. Photo via Bham Now

With candles lit, you’ve created the ultimate atmosphere for a cozy night in. So, slip on your fuzziest socks and hit the couch with your quaranteam for warm drinks and snacks. Stock up on feel-good essentials like tea and chocolate from these local shops:

Discover the “great conjunction”

The planets are aligning. Photo via Neven Krcmarek/Unsplash

The winter solstice is all about celebrating the return of light. So, it’s pretty coincidental that it falls on the same day as the “great conjunction.” The what? Lemme fill you in.

A conjunction occurs when two celestial objects appear to pass close to one another as seen from Earth.

This year, on December 21, planets Jupiter and Saturn will align to look like one bright star. Also called the “Christmas Star” and the “Star of Bethlehem”, the “great conjunction” was last visible 800 years ago in 1226 A.D.

During this super rare occurrence, you can actually fit both planets together in the same telescopic field of view. Don’t worry, Jupiter and Saturn may look like they’re going to collide with one another in the sky, in this instance, objects are much further apart than they appear.

Also, you won’t actually need a telescope or binoculars to witness the bright orb. Just a decent set of peepers will do fine.

So, while the sun is hiding out on December 21, venture outside and revel in the beauty of this rare occurrence. It’s not expected to happen again until 2080, and I don’t know about you, but I expect to kick the bucket in the mid 2070s.

Can’t make it outside? You can watch the magic here.

One Last Tip

Warmth and light. Photo via Denis Kirichenko/Unsplash

I have one more idea for you on how to celebrate the light and view the “great conjunction” at the same time on Monday, December 21. Join the Winter Solstice Campfire Night at Oak Mountain State Park.

What: A night of animal encounters, sky-watching + storytelling around the fire
Where: Oak Mountain State Park – South Trailhead Field
When: Monday, December 21 from 4:30-6:30PM
Safety Guidelines: Masks and social distancing required.
Registration required. Email to sign up.

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Patience Itson
Patience Itson
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