“It started with our founders,” Kristi Masterson, director of marketing and membership at CNC, said about the celebration. “It was their way to have a Christmas celebration.”
Masterson said the celebration began as an annual party, but has morphed into a community event where dozens of families come to enjoy holiday festivities and celebrate nature.
“We come every year,” Sonia Kwiatkowski, a CNC member from Loveland, said. “It just gives us a chance to be outside enjoying nature, and the kids get to experience all the nature center has to offer.”
Kwiatkowski was one of many parents who brought their children to the Winter Solstice Celebration, and there were plenty of activities for both children and adults at the event.
Pat Burt, of Anderson Township, said she came out with her family to hear Christmas music, take a walk and enjoy the solstice celebration.
Activities throughout the day included a scavenger hunt, percussion instrument decorating, bulb planting, horse-drawn wagon rides, performances by the West Clermont By Request choir and the Celtic band Dark Moll, a winter solstice presentation and more.
“It’s definitely a family event,” Maeve Pickus, an intern at CNC, said. “I like that it is a different event around Christmas.”
Tim O’Connor, and event speaker for CNC and Connie O’Connor, education director for CNC, presented information about the winter solstice and its history to guests several times throughout the day.
The presentation explained that on the day of winter solstice, the sun hugs closer to the horizon than any other day because it is when the axial tilt of earth’s polar hemisphere is farthest away from the sun.
Winter solstice marks the beginning of longer days and shorter nights, and the that first known observations of a winter solstice dated back more than 5,000 years ago.
According to Tim O’Connor, ancient people marked the seasons and learned how to mark the solstices for survival. Starvation was common between January and April, and winter solstice served as a marker for the colder months so the people could prepare themselves.
They celebrated solstice by enjoying some of the food they collected, as well as wine and beer that had been fermenting and was ready to drink. Eventually, these rituals became traditions celebrated during solstice, and many are similar to the traditions celebrated today during the holiday season.
The solstice celebration at the nature center included some of these traditions, and especially focused on linking the solstice celebration with nature.
And whether families came to enjoy the outdoors, create a gift for a loved-one, listen to holiday music or learn more about the nature center, they were part of a growing tradition at CNC.
“It’s just really a lot of fun,” Masterson said.