WELCOME TO THE dark side of our Pacific Northwest seasonal spectrum, when the sun barely rises in time to set again. By the time we reach the winter solstice, Dec. 21 this year, our region will receive just half the number of daylight hours than we enjoy on the celestial flip side in summer. And by daylight, I mean overcast, stormy and cold. 

It’s no wonder that most winter holiday celebrations involve light. 

Even when the weather outside is frightful, a number of regional public gardens put on seasonal displays and activities sure to cast a magical light on this darkest time of the year. 

● Escape the holiday bustle with a visit to Dunn Gardens for a Winter Solstice Celebration on Dec. 9 and 10, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sparkling lights and a bonfire accompany live music, toasty drinks and a silent auction. As a way to share the light with others and in celebration of quiet hope in the new year, at the end of each evening, guests are invited to walk the Celtic Spiral, a traditional symbol of light and life, and place individual candles held in red apples as they travel along the evergreen-marked walk. Ticket information at dunngardens.org

University of Washington Botanic Gardens celebrates light and warmth with a Winter Solstice Walk at Washington Park Arboretum on Dec. 17 and 18. Take an introspective luminary forest walk, then head indoors to Wisteria Hall to craft a holiday swag with lush, fragrant Arboretum greens. Entries are timed both days at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Saturday times are 21+; Sunday times are all ages.) Complete details and ticket information at eventbrite.com; search “Arboretum Winter Solstice Walk.” 

● Explore a Winter of Wonder at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island Dec. 1 through Jan. 3, when you’ll find holiday lights and décor throughout the gardens, as well as indoors and out at The Residence. Winter of Wonder, a family-friendly event, is free with admission to the Reserve, Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day). Dec. 19 through 22, Bloedel will mark the Winter Solstice with special evening hours. Advance purchase; timed tickets for admission to Bloedel Reserve and the Winter Solstice evening events may be booked online at bloedelreserve.org.  

● Garden d’Lights returns to Bellevue Botanical Garden once again with a dazzling display of whimsical plants and animals created with metal armatures generously wrapped with colored lights — lots of colored lights. Illuminated storytelling at its finest — think fluttering butterflies, edible landscapes, and flowering beds and borders — executed with imagination and artistry animate a nightly wonderland set within the natural beauty of the garden. Garden d’Lights is produced by the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society and runs Saturday, Nov. 26, through Saturday, Dec. 31 (the event is closed on Christmas). Advance tickets must be purchased online and will not be sold at the door. Find complete details about timed tickets and parking at gardendlights.org.