Winter Solstice

The solstice marks the moment the sun shines at its most southern point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.
It been celebrated by pagans for thousands of years, and many of the traditions now associated with Christmas had their roots in winter solstice celebrations - including the Christmas tree.

The world might look pretty grim now, but remember: as soon as the solstice has passed, the days will start getting longer again and you can start looking forward to Spring.
Here's your guide to the darkest day of the year - and a few reasons to be cheerful about it.

What is the winter solstice?

The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the official beginning of winter.
The solstice itself is the moment the sun is shining farthest to the south, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

When is the Winter Solstice?

The date of the winter solstice is different every year, falling between December 20th and 23rd.
This year, the solstice occurs today, Wednesday, December 21. The sun will rise in the UK at 08:04 GMT and set at 15:54 GMT, giving just 7 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

Traditions and rituals

The winter solstice is a major pagan festival, with rituals of rebirth having been celebrated for thousands of years.
Every year revellers gather at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the shortest day.

Many of the traditions we now think of as being part of Christmas - including Yule logs, mistletoe and Christmas trees - have their roots in the pagan celebrations of winter solstice.

Wait, the Christmas tree was originally a winter solstice tree?

Sort of. The Druids - the priests of the ancient Celts - used evergreen trees , holly and mistletoe as symbols of everlasting life during winter solstice rituals.
Cutting them down and putting them in their homes would have been too destructive to nature.
But when Saint Boniface, also known as Winfrith of Crediton, found a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree in 8th Century Germany, he cut the tree down.

Some say he then planted a fir tree on the spot after the pagans converted - others that a fir tree sprang up on the spot.
Myth has it the converted pagans in the region returned the following year to decorate the fir tree.

Will the days start getting longer again?

Yes. After the solstice, the days will gradually get longer until the summer solstice on Wednesday, 21 June 2017.
Thanks to The Mirror, Written BY

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Recipe ideas for gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan & diabetic Christmas guests


Christmas dinner is traditionally an indulgent no-holds barred feast where we fill our plates as high as possible with all kinds of wondrous treats. However, when cooking for someone with a particular dietary requirement you need to be careful with exactly what you serve as some of your guests may have specific needs. Here we will provide some guidelines as well as a selection of recipes so you can serve an enjoyable meal for everyone without upsetting your guests or endangering their health.

Gluten free

Diving in at the deep-end with gluten-free diets, gluten-free can be one of the most confusing types of dietary requirements any time of the year – not just at Christmas. Luckily many supermarkets now stock celiac-friendly products in their ‘free-from’ sections. This means that you can get hold of things like gluten-free oatcakes for your cheese & biscuits, gluten-free bread for your bread sauce and other trimmings – just look for the gluten-free symbol.

You’ll also find that there aren’t too many issues with the meat side of your dishes. Fresh, straight from the farm turkey is usually fine. But, you should try and avoid self-basting turkeys which often include protein injections and other additional flavourings which may include wheat strains.

Gluten free recipes:

Smoked Salmon & Avocado Terrines (BBC Good Food)

Guinea Fowl with Roast Chestnuts (BBC Good Food)

Cranberry, Maple & Pecan pudding (BBC Good Food)


Vegetarian diet

Whether for religious reasons, health, or ethical choices vegetarians choose to abstain from eating any meat, fish or seafood. While that puts the traditional turkey main and prawn cocktail starters firmly out of bounds, there are still plenty of tasty dishes to choose from using vegetables. You can usually also find a number of ‘mock-meat’ products on the shelves in supermarkets made by brands like Linda Mccartney and Quorn.

Vegetarian recipes:

Caper Tartar (Demuths)

Butternut Squash & Stilton Filo Pie (Tesco Real Food)

Elderberry & Almond Pie (BBC Good Food)


Vegan diet

The vegan diet is similar to the vegetarian diet. Like vegetarians Vegans don’t eat meat or fish but they also exclude any food or drink that is derived from animals such as milk, egg, honey or cheese. While this might sound restrictive it’s a good test of your abilities as a cook. You should still be able to put together a delicious Christmas dinner using combinations of grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits and replacements like tofu, soy and mock meat. Just be sure to check any processed food to make sure there are no meat or dairy ingredients lurking.

Vegan recipes:

Baby Artichoke Bruschetta (Jamie Oliver)

Jackfruit Pot Pie (OneGreenPlanet)

Cherry & Almond Vegan Brownies (BBC Good Food


Diabetic diet

Christmas is normally the time of year where we relax our healthy eating principles and decide to indulge. However, for people with health conditions like diabetes there is a risk that eating lots of rich foods can make them very ill. If you are serving food for diabetic guests then be sure to tell them in advance what you plan to cook as this will allow them to manage their diabetes on the day and how much insulin they may need to take. You should also be sure to have plenty of water and bread on hand so that if they feel their blood sugar dropping they can take action.

Diabetic recipes:

Cheesy Sweet Potato & Zucchini Bites (Slimming Eats)

Herb-crusted, Boneless Leg of Pork (Diabetic Gourmet)

Christmas pudding (Diabetes UK)

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