The longest night also marks ‘the return of light’: St. Peter’s third annual winter solstice celebration

Dec 22, 2023

The longest night of the year was anything but silent — community members gathered around the bonfire at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to sing hymns and classic Christmas carols and celebrate the official beginning of winter on Thursday, Dec. 21. 

Every day hereafter, the world will literally get a little brighter: The winter solstice marks the year’s shortest day and longest night, so there’s nowhere to go but up. 

“That’s a sign of hope, and people are really looking to hope,” said Rev. Scott Ciosek. “This is a symbol of light and of hope.”

In its third year, the celebration is becoming a tradition. It started during the pandemic as a way to bring residents together safely and bring some levity to a stressful time period. 

“There was so much darkness in the world, and we just wanted to do something to celebrate the light,” Ciosek said. 

Along with the Christmas songs and hymns, speakers remarked on the significance of the winter solstice and the reasons for celebrating it. 

“I believe that St. Peter’s is a place that all spiritual practices are welcome,” Ciosek said. “We just looked to the world of nature and wanted to do something to really mark the return of light.”

And light it was — the ceremony circled around a tall column of fire, an attraction that was difficult to miss from Elm Street, and brought several passersby in as a result. 

The free event was open to everyone in the community and featured hot cider for festive sipping. 

“You think of the darkest night as something very depressing, but with the bonfire and the uplifting music and the uplifting prayer, everything was just so positive and wonderful,” said new Dartmouth resident Mary Mobray. 

Dartmouth resident Debbie Donovan said she also attended last year, but this year “absolutely tops it,” with a larger crowd showing up and more favorable weather. 

“I like the gathering and it’s a beautiful night and a great way to celebrate the season,” said Faith Sweetser.

“We came last year and we loved it so we came back this year,” said Dartmouth resident Jen Bourassa. “This is such a sweet little tradition, it’s really nice.”

St. Peter’s will host its Christmas Eve celebration, open to everyone, on Dec. 24 at 4 p.m.