When the winter solstice arrives on Saturday, Mainers will be ready and waiting. Events across the state over the next week or so will mark the season’s gradual return to light.

Organizers of both longstanding and newer winter solstice celebrations – held at land trusts, churches, arts centers, conservation headquarters, yoga studios and more – say the need to observe the day is ever more important in our technologically obsessed and distracted world.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and the official start of winter. On Dec. 21, daylight will last about eight hours, 35 minutes, and we will be in the dark for about 15 hours, 25 minutes. But in the days to come, daylight will slowly but surely increase.

Jen Deraspe, founder of the 15-year-old Nurture Through Nature retreat in Denmark, first offered a winter solstice celebration – a Qi Gong practice coupled with a sauna-and-woodland reflection – three years ago.

“There’s a need,” she said. “People are more hungry to reconnect with nature.”

“People are hungry for a connection to the rhythms in nature,” echoed Joanne Moesswilde, the chair of the 23rd annual winter solstice event at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast. “Unfortunately with every generation in our culture, we move farther and farther from nature. There is a barrier between us and nature, and it’s technology.”

The winter solstice celebrations encompass music, dance, storytelling, hiking, taking a sauna and more. Many include food and beverages, often hot chocolate, to warm participants, given the likely chilly temperatures. Some events cater to families, others draw Mainers of all ages.

Julia McLeod, event coordinator for the Harpswell Land Trust, said most of the roughly 100 people who come to the lantern parade that is part of the trust’s celebration come to mark the season and the holidays. But she hopes they leave having reflected on the peace, beauty and restorative quality of nature.

Here are some upcoming solstice events in Maine.

Maine Audubon, 7 to 9 p.m., Dec. 19, Gilsland Farm Road, Falmouth. $7 nonmembers, $5 members, maineaudubon.org

Evelyn Rysdyk and Allie Knowlton, guides at Yarmouth-based Spirit Passages, will lead the celebration. (At Spirit Passages, they use their shamanic training in an attempt to help others gain wisdom, peace and greater confidence.) The solstice ceremony will include this practice, as well as various rituals from around the world, a fire, storytelling and refreshments.

Boothbay Region Land Trust, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Dec. 20, Hendricks Head Preserve, Beach Road, Southport. Free but limited to 10, registration required, bbrlt.org

Celebrate winter solstice eve with an introduction to forest bathing. Tracey Hall will guide participants along a mile of trail, explaining the newly popular practice of moving slowly through the forest while reflecting on the natural world.

Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, 4 to 8 p.m., Dec. 20, Crystal Spring Farm, 90 Maurice Dr., Brunswick. Free, btlt.org

Enjoy a guided lantern walk from 5 to 6 p.m. and a campfire celebration. Participants may also walk the lantern-lit trail in solitude from 4:05 to 5 p.m. and from 6:15 to 8 p.m. The path winds through the land trust’s Labyrinth in the Woods preserve, which offers opportunities for relaxation, meditation and prayer. Expect dark, cold and a slippery trail — but these haven’t stopped many from returning each year.

Harpswell Land Trust, 5 to 6 p.m., Dec. 20, 1714 Harpswell Island Rd., Harpwell. Free but registration required and limited to about 100, hhltmaine.org

Walk a lantern-lit trail through Houghton Graves Park, a pocket park on Orr’s Island. Lanterns illuminate the trail, which leads to two fires in a clearing, with more lanterns decorating the field. Attendees are encouraged to make their own lanterns and bring them; go to the land trust’s website to get instructions on how.

Bradbury Mountain State Park, 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 3:45 p.m., Dec. 21, 528 Hallowell Rd., Pownal. Cost: $35, connecttowilderness.com

Participate in one of two forest bathing walks: one in the morning for dog owners, and one in the afternoon that excludes pets. Forest bathing encourages participants to use their senses more keenly for a deeper immersion in nature. The walks include an orientation, a slow hike and guided meditation and a forest bathing tea ceremony.

Fields Pond Audubon Center, 3 p.m., Dec. 21, 216 Fields Pond Rd., Holden. Cost for families $20, registration is recommended, 989-2591

“The Night Tree,” a children’s book by Eve Bunting will be read aloud. The book tells a story of a family that – rather than cut down an evergreen tree for Christmas – decorates a tree in the forest with edible ornaments (seeds, popcorn, apples, etc.) for the animals. After the reading, participants will decorate a night tree of their own under the night sky by the meadows of Fields Pond.

Nurture Through Nature, 5 to 7:30 p.m., Dec. 21, 77 Warren Rd, Denmark.  $25-$40, limited to 22 participants, ntnretreats.com

Enjoy an evening with live music, drumming and meditation around a sauna in the woods. Nuture Through Nature founder Jen Deraspe will guide the group through the ancient Chinese practice of Qi Gong, which is said to foster vitality, energy and balance. After, the group will move into the sauna, where they will sing and tell stories, punctuated by breaks in the chilly winter air, the snow or nearby stream.

Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, 4 to 8 p.m., Dec. 21, 37 Miller St., Belfast. Free with a suggested donation, uubelfast.org

A performance at the church using song and dance tells the story of light, twilight, darkness and the return to greater light. Morris dancers will lead a procession to the town’s waterfront beside Penobscot Bay, where readings and more songs celebrate the return to light.


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