Deep in the Bible Belt, a Pagan Market Celebrates the Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice Market will bring together vendors, artists, and tarot card readers for witchy good time.

On December 21, the north pole will reach its maximum tilt from the sun, marking the longest night of the year and the official start of winter. Practicing witches consider this day, also known as the winter (or hibernal) solstice, the beginning of a season of rest and self-reflection.

Deep in the Bible Belt, a witchy shopping experience entirely devoted to the winter solstice is taking root in Durham, North Carolina, on December 21. The Winter Solstice Market, intended for everyone from those well-versed in pagan craft to those merely intrigued, celebrates the winter solstice and the season of rest with over 50 local artists and artisan sellers, as well as tarot readers and “energy healers.”

Think of it as a reprieve from the same old holiday festivities. And you can bet there'll be charming crafts for any last minute gift shopping on your list—and, in true winter solstice fashion, maybe a personal palm reading will help turn your gaze inward to set intentions for the year to come.

Courtesy of downtown Durham pop-up shop and pagan community hub The Magick Makers (which produces solstice markets for both the winter and summer solstice), this year’s Winter Solstice Market pops up from 6 pm to 9 pm at The Rickhouse, a rustic event space in Downtown Durham's Central Park district. Keep an eye out for the official lineup on the event website. There’s no charge to attend.

Drive time:

About 4 hours from Washington, DC. 
About 6 hours from Atlanta, Georgia.

More things to do near Durham, North Carolina:

Durham got its start as a tobacco manufacturing city, and now many of its old warehouses have transformed into shopping and culture destinations. Brightleaf Square located in the Brightleaf District in central Durham, for example, features two renovated warehouses built at the turn-of-the-century by the American Tobacco Company and the Duke family. Today the twin, brick structures house eateries and boutiques like Indio, where owner Wendy Sease sells eclectic, hand-picked home goods (with many from North Carolina makers), and Wentworth & Leggett Rare Books, with a collection of antiquarian books, prints, and maps.

Thrifting fiends will be happy to know that, just blocks away from Brightleaf Square in Downtown Durham, shops like Dolly's Vintage and Durham Vintage Collective stock a robust selection of kitschy threads from almost any era you may be on the hunt for. Afterwards, take a beer break at Fullsteam Brewery with the award-winning beers like the smooth Coffee is for Closer Porter and a menu of pub classics like buttermilk-fried Chicken on a Stick and loaded cheese fries.

Durham is also home to plenty of outdoor activities, like the stunning Sarah P. Dukes Gardens, where pathways and wooded walking trails meander through more than 55 acres of landscaped gardens and arboretums; the Duke Lemur Center, with the largest lemur sanctuary in the world; and copious state parks and trails like the American Tobacco Trail along an old CSX railroad and Eno River State Park.

The best restaurants in Durham, North Carolina

While Bull City prides itself on soul food, barbecue, Mexican cuisine, and farm-to-table dining, don’t leave without trying some of the city’s longest-running eateries, like the classic walk-up burger stand King’s Sandwich Shop. First opened 1942, it's the kind of unassuming establishment where grandparents bring their grandkids to share the old-school burgers and red hot dogs they grew up having—topped with secret-recipe King sauce. Shakes made in a '50s-era multi-mixer will transport you back to the lunch counter at a five-and-dime. The Chicken Hut, founded in 1957, is one of the oldest Black-owned restaurants in Durham. Still run by the founding Tapp family, the timeless joint features a menu that rotates daily with iconic Southern dishes like barbecued ribs, fried chicken (served daily) and shrimp, and macaroni and cheese.

Or pull up a seat at locals' favorite Dame's Chicken and Waffles and find some of the area’s best tacos at the humble Taqueria La Vaquita stand, where you can order street-style carnitas tacos or a chorizo torta plate and kick back on the large outdoor patio. At The Blue Note Grill, you'll find both excellent live blues music and low-and-slow-cooked barbecue and ribs. Durham also prides itself on its local agriculture, so if your stay falls when the Durham Farmers' Market and The Black Farmers' Market pop up, they're worth a visit for everything from baked goods to cheeses to salsas and honeys.

Where to stay in Durham, North Carolina

Whether you're looking for a quaint Southern experience or a posh downtown stay, Durham will deliver. Within walking distance from downtown, the Black-owned Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast radiates Southern hospitality from the 8,000 square-foot, Colonial Revival-style home where two Siamese cats roam the halls. Hotels like The Durham / Unscripted and 21c Museum Hotel, both situated in Durham’s downtown, offer trendy lodgings with mid-century modern design and amenities. Further outside the city, visitors can explore the North Carolina wilderness while staying in a charming cabin available on Airbnb.

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Sadie Bell is the former Associate Culture Editor at Thrillist and a contributor who covers music, pop culture, and nightlife.