Mark The Winter Solstice With Special Program At Aztec Ruins National Monument

The winter solstice will be marked at Aztec Ruins National Monument with a special event featuring 2,000 luminarias. NPS photo.

The arrival of the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, will be marked at Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico with a special luminaria event involving 2,000 glowing luminarias.

The monument's annual Evening of Lights will begin at 4:30 p.m. on December 19 and run until approximately 8 p.m. The evening begins with storytelling in the Great Kiva. At 4:45 p.m., rangers will lead visitors to the winter solstice marker. For this special off-trail walk you must be escorted by a ranger; you're urged to arrive on-time, wear sturdy walking shoes, and bring a flashlight.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and marks the official start of winter. It is still an important time of ceremony for many Native American people.

As the sun goes down at 5 p.m., 2,000 luminarias will light the historic Visitor Center district. Hot cocoa and cookies will be served by the Friends of Aztec Ruins, and the Western National Parks Association bookstore will stay open late for holiday shopping. The park will be open for regular visitor hours 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Event hours will be 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Local students are helping to fill, place, and light the luminarias.

Volunteers are coming from Lydia Rippey Elementary and Aztec, Farmington, and Bloomfield High Schools. The public is welcome to come collect luminaria bags the following day (December 20) to recycle in another display.

The bookstore has lots of great new merchandise this year, including jewelry, Zuni fetishes, and children's books. You can read about how the ancestral Pueblo people marked the winter solstice; Western National Parks Association bookstore at the park sells two books and two videos on ancestral Pueblo archaeoastronomy.

A portion of all book sales in the non-profit organization's stores go right back to the park, and other proceeds are used for research and publications. For example, the bookstore helped fund Junior Ranger camps at Aztec Ruins last summer.

Note: If you would like to see the winter solstice alignment, you must be at the Great Kiva for the talk at 4:30 p.m. or at the park's Visitor Center no later than 4:45 p.m. Arrive anytime between 5 p.m.-8 p.m. to enjoy the luminarias.