Solstice spiral walk at Unity of Olympia

by Christian Carvajal for OLY ARTS

The earth rotates around its north-sound axis once each day, but that axis has a tilt of 23.5 degrees with respect to the sun. In other words, the earth leans about an eighth of a semicircle away from solar north at all times. Consequently, our Northern Hemisphere is aimed toward the sun for half the year, away from it the other half. The date of the year it leans farthest away from the sun is called the winter solstice. That may not be the year’s coldest day—in fact, it usually isn’t—but it is the first official day of winter, and the day with the fewest minutes of daylight north of the equator. (South of the equator, it’s the day with the greatest number of sunlit minutes.) This year, the winter solstice falls on Wednesday, December 21st, more precisely this morning at 2:44 Pacific time.

Many people have trouble coping with a day that’s sunlit for a mere eight and a half hours. They need a reminder everything’s about to get brighter. The Hebrew Talmud, for example, responded by instituting a winter celebration called Tekufat Tevet. The Chinese created the Dōngzhi Festival, ancient Romans the Feast of Saturnalia. Knowing a good party when it saw one, the Catholic Church declared Jesus was born in late December. This was almost certainly untrue, but it did allow the party to continue after Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 A.D. Scandinavian pagans bequeathed Western civilization the Feast of Juul, which was folded into modern vocabulary as Yule.

Here in Olympia, two liberal churches embrace the winter solstice in a spirit of rejuvenation.

Unity of Olympia invites guests to its “solstice spiral walk,” accompanied by music from singer-songwriter Mike Mercker and friends. A Co-operative Outdoor Revolutionary Nature School (ACORNS) of Olympia will guide this event’s youthful attendees through the making of solstice arts and crafts. Visitors are encouraged to bring a pillow, as seating is limited.

What: Winter Solstice Spiral Walk

Where: Unity of Olympia,
1335 Fern St. SW, Olympia

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21

How much: free

Learn more: 360-943-5757 | Unity of Olympia


At Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation (OUUC), Amy Taylor will conduct an earth-centered solstice service in the group’s sanctuary. OUUC’s mission statement identifies the group as a spiritual home for people of all ages, where they can engage life’s big questions, find purpose and meaning, deepen and live shared values, and serve the cause of community justice.

What: Solstice Ritual

Where: Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation,
2315 Division St. NW, Olympia

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21

How much: free

Learn more: 360-786-6383 | OUUC


For a more Eastern-inflected ritual, try a session of candlelit yoga at “Long Winter’s Night” with instructor Kristi Lyons. This event features musical accompaniment by Malcolm Kent and promises nourishing movements, peaceful restoration and inward meditation. Stay after class for fellowship and a warm beverage.

What: Long Winter’s Night

Where: Yoga Loft,
219 Legion Way SW, Suite 202, Olympia

When: 8:35-9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21

How much: $14 for non-members

Learn more: email | Yoga Loft