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Cruise the Winter Solstice

By HarryFriday 23rd December 2016

Each December welcomes the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year. This brings with it the slow return of the sunshine after numerous long, dark months. Since ancient times, people have celebrated the occasion with a number of cultural and religious traditions. We thought we’d give our guests an idea of how December solstice is celebrated in the place some people regard as one of the ‘happiest places in the world’ – Scandinavia.


What is Winter solstice?

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The meaning behind solstice is quite literally ‘Sun stands still’. As the Earth rotates on its axis, it circles the Sun, seemingly halting twice throughout the year; once on June 21st, the longest day, and again on December 21st, the shortest. Over the years, winter solstice has become a day that is related to rebirth, light and life, due to the reappearance of the Sun. Scandinavia is home to one of these age-old traditions called ‘Yuletide’, or ‘Dansk Jul’.

Scandinavian Solstice Celebrations

‘The Feast of Juul’ was a festival that used to be celebrated in Scandinavia annually on 21st December. Vikings would light fires that represented the heat, light and life-giving properties of the return of the Sun. A Yule (or ‘Juul’) log was burned in honour of the Scandinavian god, Thor, as well as a giant wheel of leaves, which was set on fire and rolled down a hill in order to entice the Sun’s arrival. This wheel of leaves symbolised the Sun to the Vikings, and was the main inspiration for the holly wreath – a sentiment that was adopted across the world and is practiced at Christmas time to this day.
December in Scandinavia is as you would expect it to be - dark and cold, with long nights and short days. With average temperatures of approximately -2°C, people like to cosy away behind their holly-wreathed doors during winter time. Though we don’t sail to Scandinavia for the winter solstice, we do set sail there in the summer months, where temperatures sit a little more comfortably at around 12°C - 22°C (and there’s more daylight to enjoy your beautiful surroundings!).

Where to visit?

Enjoy a visit to blissful Copenhagen; a hub of creativity with avant-garde bars and restaurants. It is said to be the world’s most liveable city, and for good reason. Take a journey back in time at the grand Rosenborg Castle. Built by one of the first Scandinavian Kings in the early 17th century, you can feast your eyes upon the astounding Danish crown jewels. If you’re looking for some modern history, Amalienborg Palace is still home to the Danish royal family, where you can catch the spectacular sight of the changing of the guards at noon every day. Make the most out of the busy markets in the city, taking note of the stunning Finnish architecture of the buildings. The Opera House, Cathedral and Olympic stadium should certainly be additions to your architecture bucket list!
Feeling up to more than sight-seeing? Hop into a kayak and travel down the canals of Nyhavn, enjoying the calm surroundings and company of locals relaxing by the quayside. Alternatively, take the picturesque streets by bike, admiring the rows of coloured houses that were once home to prominent artists. The Tivoli Gardens are a definite must, with rides and amusements, fairy lights and live music, it’s fun for all the family! After all of merriment, make your way back to the ship to put your feet up after the perfect Scandinavian break!

Want to create your own Scandinavian story? Have a look at our cruises around Europe and plan your trip today.


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