Dec 20, 2022 - News

In Utah, the spiritual and secular meet on a winter solstice horizon

A sun sets into a cloud.

A sunset on the winter solstice. Photo: Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The winter solstice — which happens tomorrow — is gaining prominence in Utah, with an array of communities seeking light on the darkest day of the year.

Why it matters: Secularism is rising, a trend that has been linked to a growing celebration of the solstice among those who may identify as atheist, skeptic, humanist or even mystic without attaching to a long-established religion.

  • The solstice is a global phenomenon, which makes any exclusive religious boundaries around its celebration difficult to claim or maintain.

Yes, but: Many of Utah's celebrations are still deeply spiritual, with meditation and faith at their center.

What they're saying: "I would say 90% of the clients that come in to see me are going through a spiritual awakening and looking for help and … details on such things as solstice [and] astrology," said a medium who goes by Karolyn in her professional practice at Synchronicities.

  • The wellness and spiritual center in Sandy where she practices is hosting a solstice event Tuesday night.

Of note: A few Utah celebrations are explicitly religious or borrow from long-practiced religious and cultural traditions — from pagan and Wiccan Yule rites to Tibetan singing bowls in a solstice "sound bath."

Zoom in: Lacey Keller Smith, who describes herself as "a Mormon witch," began setting up a temporary meditative walking path known as a labyrinth for the solstice during COVID lockdowns. She said she hoped to bring friends together for a sense of spiritual community.

  • "I was very lonely during COVID, and my spiritual practice very much suffered," Keller Smith told Axios. Last year, 20 to 30 people visited her labyrinth to meditate outside.
  • For her and her friends, many of whom were raised as Latter-day Saints, "there's something about not trying to replace wholesale your spirituality and all of your social practices that makes something like solstice very easy to do," Keller Smith said.

Between the lines: For the solstice, "you don't have to come and engage at any level beyond what you're comfortable with. So it's very comfortable if you're just dipping your toe in or you're just exploring, but you also can bring whatever meaning to it that you already have," she said.

What's happening: Utahns are celebrating the winter solstice from the Salt Lake City VFW to a Park City hair salon.

  • Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove is celebrating Wednesday as part of its winter immersive fantasy, "Aurora." Admission costs $19, $14 for kids 6 to 11.
  • The seventh annual Winter Solstice Run will reach the top of Grandeur Peak at 7pm Wednesday, with hot cocoa at the trailhead around 8:30pm.
  • Crone's Hollow in South Salt Lake is hosting Yule Blot at 7pm Friday with cider and praise. Cost is $10, and drinking horns are encouraged.
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