12 December 2011

Celebrating the Dark, Welcoming the Light

Many of us in the cold North struggle with seasonal depression due to decreasing light. Add to that the darkest nights of the year forcing us to go inward and it's a recipe for the lowest lows and the most difficult of seasons.  Having been born and raised along the 43rd parallel, seasonal sensitivity is a struggle for me every year and has been much of my life. While I embrace the deep, dark nights of Samhuinn it is the fickle Autumnal weather which teases me cruelly.  Our late Autumns and early springs are very similar and sometimes our days remind me more of Spring, which lifts my spirits only to crush that hope when I realise once again I have an entire winter to get through first.

When Pixie was a baby I also battled post partum depression in the months following her birth, it was compounded by the fact we were going into late Autumn/Winter in the months following her birth.  After that first year I began reclaiming old December traditions and celebrations as well as adopting new ones. After several years our dark of the year was filled with happiness, celebration and light.  The longest nights were embraced and welcomed as a way to rest and recuperate before the bustle of the holiday season.  The month of light and love got me through to the point where the days truly do begin to lengthen again (circa 28 Dec).  This year the days will begin lengthening again 31 December so starting a new calendar year with lengthening days leaves me feeling as though I have gotten over the hump of the short days.

For the month of December we start actually with Thankgiving, family gatherings for the actual day as well as birthdays for my nephew (and in future years my new nieces).  It is about this time I would start assembling my "Yule Cookie" list (found here), a listing of 13 types of cookies baked and gifted out for the holiday season.  I started documenting this tradition in 2003 and unfortunately lost a listing and was unable to assemble a new list last year (for obvious reasons).  So I still have five years worth of lists (with recipes) assembled and I hope that next year finds Pixie and I in our own home with a wonderful kitchen and financially abundant and secure to revisit this tradition.  Pixie loves cooking and is developing quite a discerning palate, so where this takes us over the years will be exciting to see.

December starts with Pixie looking forward to St. Nicholas/Sinterklaas on the 5/6th of December. She will leave her shoe out for the traditional treats left by St. Nick. coming off the heels of the month of Samhuinn we have been remembering our ancestors so by the point in December we are honoring our German/Dutch line in the family from my paternal great grandmother.  As we are mostly UK *mutts* this nice flavor of something a bit different is wonderful.

The next week finds us celebrating Lucia Day, it started when I was in 8th grade and did a report on Sweden.  My mother and researched foods and recipes and as a part of my project I brought in some delicious baked goods including lussekatter (Lucia Cats) which are cardamom-scented sweet rolls served on Lucia.  This is in celebration of the feast of St. Lucia and our family adopted the baking of these delicious treats every year on 13th December.  This is a christian feast day for St. Lucia however recent years I found that Lucia had pagan roots and was once acknowledged as the Goddess Freyja, hence the lussekatter (cats being sacred to Freyja).  Whether this is accurate or not it resonated with me so we use this day to honor Freyja and beckoning the return or light.

The following week brings us the Winter Solstice in all of it's glory, we make bird seed treats for our feathered neighbors and we donate goods to various charities, lots of outgrown winter clothes from the previous year go.  In our family it's gifting to others and celebrating that is the focus, we don't give gifts amongst ourselves on this day.   Our gift-giving comes later in the week and tends to trickle through to year's end when we really celebrate the returning light.  The hope helps me to get through the longest months (for me), January and February.

No comments:

Post a Comment