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Winter Solstice: Celebrating the Longest Night of the Year

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By: Elizabeth Winslow
Winter Solstice: Celebrating the Longest Night of the Year

The longest night and the shortest day of the year—what's to celebrate about that? Starting with the winter solstice, which occurs on December 21 or 22 in the northern hemisphere, the days stretch out, and deep winter begins to give way to the hope of spring sunshine.

Throughout history, many cultures have marked the year's shortest day with special meals and rituals. The Chinese mark the holiday as a small, unofficial New Year celebration and feast on dumplings, rice cakes, and sticky puddings, while the Vikings traditionally lit bonfires and sacrificed and roasted a pig or goat. In Europe, various countries simmer up wassail and enjoy dancing and fires to chase away the darkness.

In our modern world, it's a holiday that can be celebrated in any way that feeds the spirit and nurtures the soul. Think warming foods, cozy gatherings, and merrymaking cocktails that cure even the dreariest winter blues.

First, warm up some libations and offer to people come in from the cold. Mulled glogg is a traditional Swedish recipe, but a mulled cranberry spiced wine is just as welcoming. Platters of shrimp dumplings make for a great appetizer, even more so once you know the Chinese belief that they'll warm you from your ears to your toes.

As a centerpiece dish, a spiced honey and black pepper glazed ham is a recipe worthy of those Vikings. Serve with spicy homemade mustard and a loaf of no-knead Swedish rye bread.

Foods that bring friends around a hearth or fire also make for great winter solstice fare. A fragrant pot of fontina fondue is warming from the inside out. While you've got the blaze going, toast up some marshmallows for grown-up s'mores with bittersweet chocolate for dessert.

Elizabeth Winslow is a writer, food blogger, culinary instructor and entrepreneur in Austin, Texas. She is a regular contributor to Edible Austin and creates compelling content for brands both large and small. She has an M.A. in Literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio and teaches cooking classes with Kitchen Underground. Winslow + co.

Spice Islands® spices deliver high quality, authentic flavors from all over the world so you can put the most delicious meals on your table.

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