Among the longest-running programs Geauga Park District hosts, in its 22nd year, the Winter Solstice Candlelight Walk has become a tradition for families countywide.
The  Winter Solstice Candlelight Walk will take place on Tuesday, December 21 from  7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the West Woods Nature Preserve located at  9465 Kinsman Road, Russell Township.
This year guests will begin the year’s longest evening indoors with hot cider and cookies homemade by volunteers, ready for sing-along opportunities with the accomplished Pilgrim Brass Choir, which has contributed traditional holiday music all 22 years of the program.
Then they’ll head outdoors in volunteer-led groups of 40 to 50 to explore the roots of our modern holiday celebrations, derived from ancient civilizations that saw the winter solstice differently than we do.
Cultures featured during the walk’s seven luminary-lit stations include the Druids and the origins of mistletoe and holly; the Egyptians and their story of the rebirth of the sun god, Horus; the Northern Barbarians and how they saw the solstice as a threat from the sun gods; and the origins of traditional items like the Yule log and the Christmas tree.
Some stations will be interactive, others will be informational. At the new “Science of the Solstice” station, we’ll also explore astronomical events that bring about the solstice – a moment when all walkers will finally be asked to bring the longest night some light by lighting to their individual candles.
This program, held at Swine Creek Reservation for 14 years and The Rookery for the past seven, makes its debut at The West Woods this year. Roughly 15 staff members and 40 volunteers make it  happen annually, and with good reason – it regularly attracts about 400 people, said Teresa Runion, the Park District’s special events coordinator.
“What’s so great about this program is that many guests have told me it becomes a tradition for their families, gets them in the spirit and really kicks off that whole holiday week for them in a positive way,” she said. “We usually throw in little bits here and there to keep it fresh, but it’s really going to be fresh this year at the new location; even though some of the stations are the same, in a new location they will seem different.”
She added that next year’s December 21 will be especially different, consisting only of a self-guided candlelight walk on luminary-lit trails and an open house of the Snowbelted: Winter’s a Blast! exhibit at The West Woods, opening in November 2011.
Due to limited parking, carpooling is highly recommended for this year’s program, which is free and family-friendly but only wheelchair / stroller accessible indoors. Registration is not required. This program takes place primarily outside, so participants are encouraged to dress warmly.
Call 440-286-9516 with questions or visit the Park District online at or on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.