It could be that I’ve been putting this off because I’d thought that the end of the year would see me more sorted – with festive plans made, workstreams tied up, and my plan for 2019 clear and indelible. These things have not happened.
Maybe I was expecting too much of myself and should listen to The Wind in the Willows.
“No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”
Winter – for me – seems to include periods of frantic busyness followed by cosy isolation; after festive celebrations, the New Year promises brightness and hope. It’s a season which can be treacherous, gluttonous, bright or gloomy; like every season, it will be different things to different people – these are the words that say Winter to me.
Whether it’s describing the sharp winds that blow in Winter, or the fast pace needed to keep limbs warm on an outdoor walk, brisk is a Winter word for me.
I think using ‘brisk’ to describe a cold day is something my mum – and her mum – might have done. It’s not a word I hear a lot, but just thinking about it now makes me want to do a sharp intake of breath, and pull a blanket around me.
The chill of the weather is brisk. My rushing around is brisk. The momentum with which the shortened days pass is certainly brisk. This season is about short days in which we have lots to do, so we do things briskly – and shiver while we do it.
While most of the winter sparkle comes from festive lights and decorations, there is also a definite glistening on a frosty morning or when we’re lucky/unlucky (you choose) enough to have snowfall.
Although the sparkle often starts in Autumn with Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights then followed, in November, by the secular celebrations of Fireworks Night and Thanksgiving. Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is another movable winter celebration coming between November and January. In January or February, we can also light fireworks for the Chinese New Year.
In the UK, the biggest celebration in Winter is definitely Christmas, followed closely by New Year’s Eve. It’s no coincidence though, that so many groups celebrate the power of light over darkness at this gloomy time of year. When the world is shadowy and grey, everyone needs a bit of sparkle.
Winter is certainly a time for fluffy blankets, warm blankets, woollen blankets – and even blankets of snow.
That cosiness is necessary when it’s cold outside, and there’s something about being engulfed in a cover which muffles the parts of the real world we’re not wanting to deal with.
According to the Met Office, the Midlands is the geographic heart of England – and it’s also where I live. Here, the website tells me, we’ll expect to see a monthly average of 50-60 hours of daylight from December to February. A rather different story than the July average of around 200 hours.
And there are many people who are psychologically affected by this darkness, as well as other pressures, and find Winter incredibly tough. It’s a time of year when common illnesses cause many of us to struggle, the demands of time and money caused by Christmas are a real burden, and the expectation that we’ll all enjoy the parties and festivities can be overwhelming. Loneliness and depression are everywhere in Winter, and in the darkness of the season, this can feel inevitable.
Winter can feel incredibly dark, so don’t be afraid to look for light and comfort wherever you can find it.
These are the words which conjure up Winter for me – there is darkness and brisk winds, but there’s sparkle and blankets too.
Maybe for you, Winter is about snow, fun, family – or Santa as my daughter suggested.
Tell me which words make you think of Winter, I’d love to know.