Santa's Whiskers

1200 A.D. Tulum, Mexico

Located on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is an ancient stone-walled Mayan city whose population collapsed around the 15th century when Spanish settlers had begun to occupy Mexico. Much of the stone buildings that made up the city still stand today. One of those buildings contains a small hole at its top that produces a starburst effect when the sun rises on the winter (and summer) solstice.
500 B.C. - 40 A.D. Stone Lines at Cerro del Gentil Pyramid, Peru

In 2013 researchers discovered two stone lines that, when approached straight on, appeared to frame Peru’s Cerro del Gentil pyramid in the distance. The lines are located roughly 1.2 miles southeast of the pyramid, and extendabout 1,640 feet. Researchers discovered that the winter solstice sun sets exactly where the lines converge on the pyramid in the horizon.

2,800 B.C. Maeshowe, Scotland

Built in Orkney, Scotland, around 2800 B.C., Maeshowe is another burial ground that appears as a grassy mound rising about 24 feet above a grassy field. Similar to Ireland’s Newgrange, the inside of the mound contains a maze of chambers and passageways that become illuminated by sunlight during the winter solstice.
3,000 – 2,000 B.C. ​Stonehenge, England 

One of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, it is an arrangement of rocks carefully positioned on a barren ground in southern England. The megalith was built between 3,000 and 2,000 B.C. over the course of roughly 1,500 years. When the sun sets on the winter solstice, its rays align with what are known as the central Altar stone and the Slaughter stone.
3,200 B.C. Newgrange, Ireland

The Newgrange monument is located in northeastern Ireland, and is thought to date back to about 3,200 B.C. The mound, with grass on its roof, rises from a green field and, inside, contains a series of tunnels and channels. During sunrise on the winter solstice, the sun pours into the main chambers, which researchers have interpreted to mean that it was built to celebrate this special day of the year.
4,900 B.C. Goseck Circle, Germany

The Goseck circle is a series of concentric rings dug into the ground, the largest of which measures about 246 feet in diameter, located in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It dates back to about 4,900 B.C., but was forgotten and covered by a wheat field before being discovered through aerial surveys in the early 1990’s. Upon discovery and excavation, researchers realized that two gates cut into the outermost circle aligned with the sunrise and sunset of the winter solstice, suggesting that this circle was somehow a tribute to the solstice.

10,000 B.C.

Winter Solstice

The oldest and probably the most important 
winter celebrations involved the Winter Solstice.
In many different parts of the world various
cultures recognized the impact that winter had
on their lives.

In the northern hemisphere, the Winter solstice
occurs during the coldest season of the year.
December 21 or 22 are usually designated as
the Winter Solstice, marking the longest and
darkest day of the season. Although winter was
regarded as the season of dormancy, darkness
and cold, the coming of lighter days after the
winter solstice brought on a more festive mood.
To many people, this return of the light was a reason to celebrate that nature’s cycle was continuing.

The solstice itself may have been a special moment in the annual cycle of the year even as long ago as 10,000 B.C., during Neolithic times. This is attested to by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland, which apparently were used to determine the date of the rising and setting of the Winter Solstice sun. During ancient times the Solstice would have been used to control the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere), The midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time.