A Playlist for the Winter Solstice

Press play to listen while you read along.

Some people believe in God. Others don’t. Some people share ritual practice in community. Others find meaning in individual contemplation.

But all of us experience the passage of time. In the northern hemisphere, at this time of year, we’re welcoming shorter, colder days. We acknowledged our ancestors and mortality at Samhain/Halloween/Day of the Dead. We’ve celebrated the harvest with feasts. And December 21st will mark the winter solstice—the shortest day of the year when the North Pole points as far away from the sun as it will this year. In many cultures, this is seen as a time of rebirth as we welcome back the sun with ever-lengthening days.

If we own a television (or don’t have Ad Block on our device), we’re probably also noticing a lot of Christmas-themed advertisements. In 2018, the U.S. retail industry saw a record $850 billion in sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2013, the holiday season accounted for 19% of that year’s total retail sales. Christmas is a money-making industry, and it is booming.

All this while Americans are becoming less religious overall. The percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans grew from 16% in 2007 to 26% in 2019. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who identify as Christian dropped from 78% in 2007 to 65% in 2019. This is connected to deep shifts in our culture, changes in the political landscape, and ever-evolving patterns in our personal and family life.

So it’s both strange and unsurprising that the “Happy Holidays” genre on Spotify currently brings up a list of 35 Christmas-heavy playlists before we get to one “Hanukkah” playlist, then 9 more Christmas playlists, then “Hanukkah Kids” and “Kwanzaa,” then 3 more Christmas playlists, and so on. Surely there’s a way for Christians and non-Christians alike to celebrate some classic songs, think about the approaching snows, and come together as families.

So I made a playlist!

Whether you celebrate Yule or Kwanzaa or Alban Arthan or Christmas or Saturnalia or Bodhi Day or Hanukkah or no particular holiday at all, I hope you’ll enjoy this seasonal playlist to help us appreciate the solstice together!

Listen to the full 4 hour playlist here:


Special thanks to Stephanie Diamond for encouraging this playlist!