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Holiday

Festive favorites for every holiday.

Celebrate the winter solstice with these 6 classical works

The fresh snow dances across the winter sun rays. Unsplash/Denys Nevozhai

Celebrations of the winter solstice have occurred in many cultures around the world. In Scandinavia, people have Yule and St. Lucia's Day, while evidence of similar traditions were observed by the Romans, Japanese and Indigenous Americans, as well. The earliest surviving observations of the winter solstice are said to come from the areas now known as Ireland and Scotland.

Here are six works that celebrate the winter solstice. As the title suggests, Welcome to Winter, by Sue Richards, celebrates the changing of the seasons from autumn to winter.

Celebrated on Dec. 13 in Scandinavian countries, St. Lucia's Day fell on the winter solstice on the Julian calendar. Even though the holiday has Lutheran origins, it also focuses on Scandinavian folklore's struggle between light and darkness. That conflict is evoked in Hugo Hammarstrom's Sankta Lucia.

The Celtic and Irish cultures have some of the first recorded celebrations of the winter solstice. Ensemble Galilei performs Solstice Lament, by Carolyn Anderson Surrick, which shares a sometimes common theme of the sadness that people feel during the season's shortened days.

Slavic cultures also celebrated this time of year with festival gatherings that went on throughout the night. The whole family was involved, but it was particularly exciting for children as we see with the modern traditions of Christmas and Santa Claus. Bela Bartok captured this childlike excitement with his No. 38 Winter Solstice Song for children.

A hauntingly beautiful piano prelude enraptures the winter solstice as a mystical or magical day that summons a primal part of our past. Richard Danielpour's Winter Solstice, Part 7 of his The Enchanted Garden Preludes, plays into these popular misconceptions.

The celebration of Yule, or Jul, is observed on the winter solstice as the rebirth of the sun. It is a pre-Christian holiday that is now part of most holiday season traditions. Jul, Jul, Stralande Jul ("stralande" means "radiant"), by Gustaf Nordqvist, is a relatively modern song created to celebrate Christmas while honoring past traditions of Yule.

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