Matariki as the traditional Māori New Year is an example of the celebration of midwinter, as it has been and still is being celebrated in many forms all over the world. It is the celebration that the shortest day has gone and that light returns. It is looking forward to a new year that lies ahead and at the same time a celebration and reflection of and on the past, the ancestors, the relatives that have passed away, etc. But on the southern hemisphere, midwinter or the winter solstice is around 22 June, and not 22 December as on the Northern hemisphere.
Midwinter has probably been the most intense celebration during the year for many ancient cultures. Especially in areas with rugged climates, winter was a time of hardship, with famine, storms and low temperatures. In mythology winter was often related to a struggle of light over darkness, and the winter solstice was welcomed as the point after which the days were getting longer.
In colder climates, midwinter was the last feast before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, and it was the only time of the year for some, that a supply of fresh meat was available. It was also a time that little work could be done on the land that lay bare, so it was a time for reflection and for sharing with others. Even in modern times these attitudes are still valued for spiritual comfort, having something to look forward to at the darkest time of the year.
is a winter festival that was celebrated by the ancient Germanic people in Europe as a pagan religious festival around midwinter.
In the 4th century the Christian church adopted the Yule celebrations as the equivalent of the Christian festival of Christmas and placed it on December 25 on the Julian calendar. This date is likely chosen to coincide with the winter solstice and with the existing pagan celebrations.