And just like that it’s the last month of the year. After such a great summer and a lovely autumn, I almost forgot that the dark days were on the way – until I looked up at 4:30pm and noticed that it was pitch black outside. Let’s face it, it should come as no surprise to feel the cold, or to hear the rain hammering, and the wind howling. As someone commented in the pub last night: “Winter’s not coming, mate. It’s arrived.”
This year I’m ready for it. A great summer of building up my vitamin D reserves, topped up with some serious sunshine abroad in June and October has me winter fit. Let the layers of fleece encase my body, let the fire blaze in the stove and may the leak in my bedroom ceiling remain manageable. I’ll make it through the darkness just fine. It’s less than a month to the solstice, and after that the days start (very slowly but surely) to get longer. Before we know it the green shoots of the daffs will be pushing through the dead leaves on the drive. In the meantime, it’s hibernation mode when you shouldn’t do much apart from seeking out warmth, good food and good company. And then, of course, there’s Christmas.
I’m not one to rush into Christmas. I think it should be illegal to even mention the subject until well after Halloween. In addition, we celebrate Thanksgiving (which falls on the fourth Thursday of November) so no jingle bells when there’s still leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner. I do understand the need for retailers to get their Christmas groove on early, but I try and avoid the whole kit-and-caboodle of tinsel and carols until around the first week of December. I spend most of November shielding my eyes and covering my ears, as my local shops start looking more and more like Santa’s grotto. Only once the month is over will I let myself even consider buying a panettone or thinking about presents. In Belgium and the Netherlands St Nicholas brings the presents on the night of December 5, kicking off the festive season. In West Cork, December 8, also known locally as 10 per cent day, was the traditional day for turning on the Christmas lights and starting in on the Christmas cheer. Proper order. The first week of December is a sensible date to set the whole thing in motion. The trick is not to jump in too fast. Easy does it, building momentum up until December 24 when the 12 days of Christmas take off at full throttle. After two years of Christmas lockdowns, I am really looking forward to the first truly festive season in what feels like a very long time.
Christmas is about community: family and friends, school and church, pubs and house parties. It’s a time to mingle, to have the chats, raise a glass, and sing a song. To hug people that you haven’t seen in yonks. All things that have been cruelly missing from Christmas for far too long. This year we can finally celebrate together again.
So put on the flashing jumpers and Santa hats, throw on the tacky tinsel and blast those cheesy carols on a loop. Eat, drink and be merry, for tis the season to be jolly. This year I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.