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Winter Solstice Party at the Umbrella Bar in Crested Butte. Photo courtesy of Taylor Ahearn/CBMR

Celebrate the Darkest Day of the Year Under the Light of an (Almost) Full Moon

This year's winter solstice—i.e. the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year—comes just one day before the full moon, making the annual occurrence even more special. Here are five fun ways to mark the event in Colorado.

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The winter solstice on Friday, December 21, marks the shortest day of the year and brings everyone what they secretly wish for at Christmas: the start of longer daylight hours. In the Northern Hemisphere, the day is traditionally celebrated by burning a Yule log and staying up all night to watch the sunrise—rituals that were actually intended to honor the slow approach of the warm, bright days of summer, not the current reality of the cold, dark nights of winter.

Thanks to an annual alignment with the holiday season, the winter solstice is also a time for reflection and revelry. This year, the solstice also happens to come the day before a full moon, which arrives with its own auspicious aspects. To celebrate the spirit of this extra special solstice, bundle up and head out to one of these festive events around Colorado.

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Winter Wonderland at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre

For the first time in its 100-plus-year history this scenic music venue, located 24 miles northwest of Fort Collins in the Poudre Canyon, is decking its concert halls with holiday trimmings for fans to enjoy the entire month of December. In addition to a regular food menu and full bar available in the on-site restaurant, hot drink specials (including the owner’s boozy Wassail concoction) will be provided outside under the light of two giant Christmas trees from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday evenings and from 2 to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The moon beams and activities such as s’mores and ornament decorating stations are sure to make this historical place of merriment even more magical. Admission and parking are free for this event.

Winter Solstice Party at the Umbrella Bar in Crested Butte

Marvel at the moonlight reflecting off the snow-covered landscape surrounding the Umbrella Bar, perched at 10,150 feet atop Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Shortly after sundown on Friday evening, guests will be whisked up the mountain on a Snowcat-drawn sleigh, welcomed inside a glowing yurt, and greeted with a complimentary cocktail. Alternatively, the option to skin or snowshoe up the mountain is available for those who prefer to earn their dinner (if the cold temps or warm libations get the best of you, hop a ride down in the sleigh instead of skiing or trekking back after dinner.) Heavy hors d’oeuvres and stunning scenery are also included in the ticket price of $60 per person.

Courtesy of RMNP

Take a Moonlit Stroll Through Rocky Mountain National Park

On Saturday, December 22, head to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center near Estes Park and meet the knowledgeable park ranger who will guide you over the river and through the woods during this special after-hours trek. You’ll learn about the ecology of the park and hopefully spot signs of wildlife, which are generally more active at night. Your guide will also talk about astronomy and point out various constellations if the sky is clear. Be sure to dress in warm layers and put a hot drink in your canteen, but leave the blinding headlamps at home and allow the moon to light the path instead (headlamps with red light settings are recommended for improved night vision). Call in advance to reserve your spot; a ranger will call you back the day prior with location and equipment details, which are weather dependent. This event is free and does not include any gear or snacks.

Steamboat Friday Nights

A live performance by local comedy and circus improv group “We’re Not Clowns” kicks off the festivities at Steamboat Resort at 3 p.m. on Friday and wraps up with a bang from an on-mountain fireworks display at 7 p.m.—all the more impressive with the moon as a backdrop. Live music, a trivia tournament, and a “light-up ski parade” are also on the docket for this evening of family fun. The main event is free, but those with extra energy can purchase tickets for night skiing and rides on the resort’s famous Outlaw Mountain Coaster, the longest alpine slide in the continent, which is even more thrilling in the dark.

Yoga in the City

Sun salutations and the winter solstice go hand-in-hand, so if you can’t make it to the mountains try a yoga class to ignite your inner fire instead. Many studios offer workshops dedicated to the season, featuring specific poses and breathing exercises meant to welcome the brighter days ahead. These classes are open to yogis of all levels, and may even be a nice way to kick off your New Year’s resolutions a tad early. Check out Corepower Yoga, which offers solstice-based flows at various locations across the metro area on Friday and Saturday. Or tune out the world for two hours at the Iyengar Yoga Center on South Broadway for a donation-based solstice workshop designed to provide the ultimate mid-winter wind down.

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