Winter Solstice Rituals

Q: Are there any Jewish rituals for the winter solstice?

A: Since the Jewish calendar and festivals are primarily based on the Lunar Calendar, and the solstice is related to the sun, there is no Jewish holiday or ritual associated with the Winter Solstice. However, based on the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Avodah Zarah 8B and Avot D’rabbi Nattan 1, we learn the possible origins of the Roman Saturnalia and Calends, and subsequently the pagan celebrations around the Winter Solstice.

The sources state that Original Man, Adam, took note after he and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden that the days kept getting shorter and shorter. This frightened Adam because he believed that the world was slowly coming to an end.

To repent, Adam began to pray and fast for many days until the Winter Solstice when the days started to get longer. This engendered a celebration, which people of many cultures in future generations carried on.