The Fires of Renewal

Winter Solstice celebration at Olbrich only missing pretty snow cover

The twice annual Solstice bonfire at Olbrich Park. This celebrated the Winter Solsice. December 22, 2015.

The Winter Solstice bonfire, part of a twice annual Solstice celebration held at Olbrich Park on December 22, 2015.

The Solstice is one of the more accessible and life affirming holidays celebrated in Madison and it occurs twice a year! Centered around the astronomical cycles of the sun and the earth, the Solstice is a recognition and reaffirmation of our connection to Mother Earth.

The history of the Solstice reminds us that it is not a single deity or a collection of them that truly drives our existence; it is the natural rhythms of the earth that shaped humanity over time. This recognition is very popular in Madison with many Solstice celebrations held around the city.

Our northern city endures the ravages of winter and the tradition of a bonfire is attractive to our residents as, like in pre-Christian times, it signifies the return of heat and light from the sun after it has spent six months retreating from us.

Led by the Friends of Starkweather Creek as well as support from the Schenk, Atwood, Starkweather and Yahara Neighborhood Association (SAYNA) and WORT-FM, the festival is a popular gathering for all to be exposed to new traditions and have an outdoor fire; also a Wisconsin tradition in cold times and warm.

This day (December 22), the procession brought forth those chosen to light the fire after speeches were made welcoming the return of the light. As the fire was lit, around four to five drummers played tribal beats and many danced around the outside of the protective cordon of the festival fire marshals.

The gathered pine boughs on the 10-foot tall pyre were very resistant at first and took several attempts, with a propane assist, to sustain the fire. Unseasonably warm weather, including a light onshore breeze from Lake Monona made the event an enjoyable time.

As the fire accelerated, the spent pine needles streamed and floated from the fire like angry fire flies as they danced their way into the sky. Most assuredly cold dark days are ahead, but the fire provide a pathway to the light and warmth of summer.


The Solstice bonfire gathers momentum during the 2015 Winter Solstice celebration at Olbrich Park on December 22, 2015.


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