Winter Blogfest: Romy Gemmell

Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Romy Gemmell

Midwinter Masquerade by Romy Gemmell - 200The shortest day of the year, normally December 21st, is known as the Winter Solstice and is still a magical time for many people in the northern hemisphere. It partly forms the background for Midwinter Masquerade which is set in the Scottish countryside in 1816.

This is the day when the sun appears to stand still before changing direction, when the days will begin to lengthen again until reaching the longest day on the Summer Solstice. The word solstice is thought to stem from two Latin words: sol, meaning sun and sistere, to stand.

The days leading up to the Winter Solstice were known as Saturnalia in Roman times, marking the moment when the sun was reborn after the shortest day and longest night. To celebrate the occasion and to welcome the coming of light, most people left aside their work to enjoy as much merriment and feasting as possible.

Another important part of the festival was the winter greenery brought inside to decorate homes around this time, such as ivy, holly, laurel and mistletoe, all illuminated by the light from candles. The evergreen ivy and the holly with its bright red berries have had many myths and legends attached to them over the centuries, often to do with new life and rebirth.

Here in Britain, there is a wealth of carols and poems celebrating the place holly and ivy have in our December traditions, both pagan and Christian, from Advent, through the twelve days of Christmas to Epiphany, such as this poem by Robert Herrick from the 16th century.

The darling of the world is come,

And fit it is we find a room

To welcome him. The nobler part

Of all the house here is the heart.

Which we will give him, and bequeath

This holly and this ivy wreath,

To do him honour who’s our King,

And Lord of all this revelling.


Many people still celebrate this special time at the Winter Solstice and it is especially sacred to the Druids and some pagan beliefs. Stonehenge in England is one of the most significant ancient spiritual sites where hundreds of people will gather to watch the sun set on the shortest day this December and will welcome the new sunrise after the longest night of the year.

I’m offering one free e-copy of Midwinter Masquerade as a prize. Just leave a comment.



Author Bio

Rosemary Gemmell’s short stories and articles are published in UK magazines, in anthologies, in the US, and online and she has won several short story prizes. She lives in the beautiful west coast of Scotland and is now a published novelist for adults (as Romy) and Middle Grade/tweens (as Ros) with three different e-publishers. Her BA (hons) in literature and history and MA in Humanities are put to good use in reading and research for all types of writing. Midwinter Masquerade is her new Regency novel set in Scotland from Tirgearr Publishing.


Amazon US:  and Amazon UK:

All e-formats through Tirgearr Publishing:


Main Blog:

Twitter: @rosemarygemmell





  1. A Merry Yule to you, Romy, and thank you for a lovely and informative post! Many people who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) look forward to the winter solstice also because it means the light will increase every day until summer.

  2. Dustin Nix says:

    Happy Winter’s Solstice. May the wind be ever in your favour. :]

  3. Catherine Lee says:

    I should put that on my bucket list–spending the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge. That must be QUITE an experience!

  4. Nice poem

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  5. Hi Romy, I love Winter solstice stories. I quoted a Robert Herrick poem also in my post. Happy Holidays!

  6. Jude – you’re the winner of the free download! I’ll email you shortly.

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