Pin It
Monday, December 12th, 2011

Hopi Winter Solstice (Soyal): December 22

Winter solstice/ Phil Roeder

The Hopi Indians, who have lived in the highlands of northern Arizona for over a thousand years, divide their calendar into 12 months with different ceremonies in each month. December is the month where the katsinas or kachinas, the spirits that guard over the Hopi, come down from their world at the winter solstice or Soyal (also referred to as Soyaluna and Soyalangwu). They remain with the people for the first half of the Wheel of the Year until the summer solstice, when they return to their home in the mountains. The kachinas are benevolent anthropomorphic beings, who can be male or female, and represent a host of animals, plants and natural phenomena. They are greatly celebrated and revered and their presence is associated with rain, crops and healing the sick.

During Soyal, which lasts nine days, sacred rituals are performed in chambers, called kivas, and many ceremonies involving dancing and singing take place; the kachinas may even bring gifts to the children. Soyal time is when stories are passed down to children from the elders and children are taught pivotal lessons like respecting others. The prayers and rituals help the Hopi to turn the sun toward its summer home and begin giving strength to all life for the growing season ahead. The Hopi, meaning the peaceful ones, believe that everything that will occur during the year is arranged at Soyal.

In preparation for the kachinas’ arrival, the Hopi make prayer sticks to bless the community, including their homes, animals and plants. Children are given replicas of the kachinas, intricately carved and dressed like the dancers, to help them learn about the hundreds of kachina spirits. Sixteen days before the winter solstice, one of the chief kachinas enters the Pueblo. He appears like a tired, old man who has just awakened from a deep slumber, teetering and on the verge of losing his balance. People follow his every move. He typically staggers over to the dance plaza where with great exaggeration, he dances and sings in a very low voice a song that is regarded as too sacred for the public to hear.

In many Native American ceremonies, the celebrations are sacred and inaccessible to outsiders. This creates limited and conflicting information about the ceremonies and rituals, so that discerning accurate details on the Soyal ceremony was equally challenging. We welcome feedback and commentary from anyone familiar with the traditions to round out our presentation.

© 2011 – 2012, The Editors. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Don’t Touch My Child! Lessons from Asia

Has the West taken fear too far?

Is all the Hard Work of Bilingualism Really Paying Off?

I just found out the surprising answer.

Language Resource Library for Raising Bilingual Kids

The most comprehensive list of language learning resources

The West's Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

How the West sleeps is different from the rest

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


InCultureParent is an online magazine for parent's raising little global citizens. Centered on global parenting culture and traditions, we feature articles on parenting around the world and on raising multicultural and multilingual children.

Leave us a comment!

4 Comments
  1. CommentsSoyal Ceremony: Hopi Kachinas Dance at Winter Solstice | WilderUtopia.com   |  Thursday, 22 December 2011 at 4:48 pm

    […] http://www.incultureparent.com/2011/12/hopi-winter-solstice-soyal-december-22/ […]

  2. CommentsWinter Solstice, Sun Masks & Dance 12/12 « Mudpies & Butterflies   |  Monday, 09 December 2013 at 10:33 am

    […] are many festivals and celebration across the globe that celebrate the Winter Solstice.  Soyal is a private 9 day celebration for the Hopi and Zuni Indians in the Southwest.  The Chinese […]

  3. CommentsThe Return of Light | SurvivorsAwakenTheChurch   |  Saturday, 21 December 2013 at 11:16 am

    […] Ganesh during the five days of Pancha Ganapati. Zuni and Hopi Indians mark the solstice with the Soyal ceremony. In a few weeks, people in many Asian countries will celebrate the lunar new year. All over […]

  4. CommentsWinter Celebrations! | AISD Social and Emotional Learning   |  Wednesday, 09 December 2015 at 1:42 pm

    […] Soyal (or Soyalangwul) is a major winter solstice celebration and feast observed by the Native American Hopi and Zuni people of the Southwest. It starts on the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, which is usually between December 20th-22nd, and is marked by nine days of kiva rituals, communal meals, dances, and festivities. A major aspect of Soyal is the return of the Katsinam, or Kachinas, who “…remain with the people for the first half of the Wheel of the Year until the summer solstice, when they return to their home in the mountains. The kachinas are benevolent anthropomorphic beings, who can be male or female, and represent a host of animals, plants and natural phenomena. They are greatly celebrated and revered and their presence is associated with rain, crops and healing the sick.” In some traditions, the Kachinas arrive with gifts for the children in the community. […]









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
[…] Peru, 97 percent of newborns are breastfed, according to LLLI. In Culture Parent reported that 69 percent of Peruvian children are breastfed exclusively from birth to five months, and ou...
From Breastfeeding Around the World
Hi I was googling Islamic beliefs when I came across your post. We are American and our neighbors are from Pakistan I think. Our kids love playing together but their dad doesn't allow the kids to co...
From An Islamic Perspective on Child-Rearing and Discipline
Mother’s Day is the most perfect and accurate Occasion to express your Love and Gratitude towards Mothe...
From Holi Craft: Straw Painting
[…] Muslims fast for 30 days every year for Ramadan, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Ramadan this year is happening during most of the month […...
From Ramadan: June 28-July 28
[…] Raising a Little Buddha – Part 1, InCulture Parent — Post by a Buddhist Minister about raising an enlightened child.  It starts with intimacy, communication, and community. [R...
From How to Raise an Enlightened Child — Part I
[…] Breastfeeding in Jordan, InCulture Parent — Not as restrictive as one might think. […...
From Breastfeeding in Jordan
[…] Best and Worst Countries to be a Mother, InCulture Parent – “The 2010 Mothers’ Index rates 160 countries (43 developed nations and 117 in the developing world) in terms of th...
From Best and Worst Countries to be a Mother
[…] Why Americans Value Independent and Competitive Kids, InCultureParent — Interesting look at how our values impact our interactions with our children (babies in particular). […...
From Why Americans Value Independent and Competitive Kids
[…] Multiple Fathers and Healthier Children in the Amazon, InCulture Parent — a fascinating look at cultures in the Amazon where pregnant women have sex with more than one man as a means...
From Multiple Fathers and Healthier Children in the Amazon

More Global Celebrations