Make a fire, light some candles--welcome the light on this wintry night--as our ancestors did before us.Photo/Illustration: lucie sargent
Deck the halls with boughs of holly!Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
The conifers bring a wonderfully fresh and resinous aroma indoors--infuse some needles and make a lovely tea sweetened with a touch of maple syrup, or better yet, make a tincture or bitters for a lovely seasonal libation.Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
The winter solstice is on Thursday, December 21, 2017. I am so looking forward to this annual celebration–I always go to my friend’s house where a large number of us gather to welcome winter and light the longest night of the year with a huge bonfire and share a feast of warming winter dishes. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years.
As a gardener, I mark the equinoxes and solstices on my calendar and celebrate each one of these dates. They represent the changing of the seasons, the cycle of life and growth throughout the year. Although I prefer warmer weather and rejoice in the growing season, the winter solstice is significant to me because even though we shall have cold winter weather for the next few months–we have reached the minimum daylength. On the winter solstice, we have 9 hours and 5 minutes of daylight and thereafter we slowly gain a minute or two of daylight each day forward. By the end of January, we will have moved to 10 hour-long days. This cheers this gardener’s heart and helps me to endure the cold weather.
Rather than bemoan the cold weather and lack of contact with the garden earth and green growing things, I look for the delights of the season–from the first snowfall to the geese flying overhead, songbirds perched on dried seed heads from our summer herbs and blooms, the pleasant sounds of the birds going to roost at night, the footprints of fox and possums, the white tails of the deer as they take off through the woods, the enduring beauty of the evergreens and their cones, the berries on the juniper and holly.
I trim and bring in greens to adorn the house along with seasonal blooming houseplants from cyclamen and poinsettias to the big blooming bulbs of amaryllis. Scattered amongst these are lots of candles and sparkle lights to bring the light and brighten the days that grow dark so early.
The stove is pretty much being stoked 24/7 and it is pleasant to stand by it to warm from the out-of-doors. It is even more satisfying to sit next to it with a mug of tea or a glass of cheer and contemplate life, the quiet time of turning inward, dream of gardens to come, or escape in a good book. Even though the holidays are upon us, we all need these quiet downtimes to let the stress go.
So let us celebrate the season and welcome the solstice; light some candles or a yule log, or gaze into the flames of a fire in your fireplace, firepit or bonfire. Let there be light!
It is traditional that I prepare a huge pot of my vegetarian chili; it is quite a tasty recipe–I wrote about it a few years ago. /item/62253/warming-vegetarian-chili-for-winter-solstice Usually there is cornbread to go with it–and a salad–and since it is a potluck there are many other savory dishes–and of course lots of desserts. My pot of chili is cooking on the stove right now. Happy Winter Solstice!
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