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Celebrating the Winter Solstice in Alberta

Albertans across the province embrace the darkness of winter and celebrate light with a variety of festivals, events, and activities. Here are four great ways to find the light in the darkness.
2-3A - Festivals and Races Celebrating the Winter Solstice December WJP (1)

The winter solstice, which falls on Tuesday, December 21, is fast approaching. With it comes the official first day of winter as well as the shortest day of the year. Those in Lethbridge can expect 8 hours and 7 minutes of daylight on the winter solstice, while residents of High Level will only see the sun for 6 hours and 24 minutes. Whether you are a winter lover or you can’t wait for summer, here are a few ways that you can celebrate turning the corner on the darkest day.

Winter Lights in Lethbridge

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden Winter Light Festival is a sparkling way to celebrate the winter solstice. This festival brightens up the shortest days with over 150,000 lights. Visitors can enjoy huge light displays, ice sculptures, and learn about Japanese customs and traditions. The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden Winter Light Festival runs Wednesday through Sunday from November 26 until February 28. Please note that the festival will be closed on December 25 and January 1. Adult tickets cost $12.50, students and children tickets are $9, and kids under 5 years old are free.

Calgary’s Zoolights

Each evening between 5:00 and 9:00, the Calgary Zoo glows with over 200 lighted figurines and choreographed light displays as part of their annual Zoolights event. On top of the lights, visitors can enjoy additional activities that include skating on the rink, warming up at the firepit, and testing their skills with axe throwing. Wandering through the spectacular show takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, but everyone is welcome to stay until closing if they would like. Tickets cost $21.95 for adults and $14.95 for youth. Children under 3 are free. Proceeds from Zoolights support wildlife conservation.

Beat the Cold with a Winter Movement Challenge

Celebrate the first day of winter with Run Calgary and their 2nd annual Winter Moves challenge. This challenge runs from the first day of winter on December 21 until the first day of spring on March 20. Each participant is encouraged to get moving outdoors for a total of 80 hours in 90 days. Run, walk, fat bike, ski, snowshoe, skate – the choice is yours. Adult entry fees cost $125 each while youth cost $89. Each entry fee includes a toque, mitts, and other goodies as well as 90 days of motivation. Winter Moves is open to anyone anywhere.

Snowshoe and Stargaze at Elk Island National Park

Embrace the darkness by taking advantage of the long nights. On select dates throughout the winter, park interpreters at Elk Island National Park east of Edmonton teach visitors how to navigate the night sky while snowshoeing around the shore of Astotin Lake. Elk Island National Park is located in the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve and is known for the excellent stargazing. Tickets cost $28.70 per person plus a valid National Park Pass and include use of snowshoes.


Embrace the long nights and enjoy everything Alberta has to offer this winter. If you are already tired of the dark, cold, and snow, remember that after the winter solstice the days start to get longer as we head back towards warmth and sunlight.

Wendy Powell is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the Cool Winter Guide advertising feature. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.

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