At the heart of winter, Christmas is a moment where we come together to celebrate the turning of the year from darkness towards the light, from dormancy to life. It is a reminder of the ever-changing flow of life around us and within us, and that darkness does not linger eternally.
Christmas is often marked by traditions, and these daily rituals sustain us during colder months; like lighting a fragrant candle, lying in warm, bubbly baths, warming our hands around hot mugs of tea, eating together and closing the curtains when we return home from a busy day.
When we come together to practice comfort and ritual we create a circle of warmth that envelopes our soul with snugness and reminds us to celebrate the light in each other throughout the year to come. These moments once begun and repeated, year on year, also build the anticipation for another wonderful Christmas.
The history of Christmas
The roots of the Christmas traditions that we take joy in today can be traced back to pre-Christian celebrations of the winter solstice that falls on the 21st of December – the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
From decorated trees to Christmas crackers and festive cards, many of our best-known Christmas rituals are products of the Victorian era. At the dawn of the 19th century, Christmas was hardly celebrated and gifts had traditionally been given to commemorate the start of the new year, but by the end of the century, Christmas had become the biggest annual celebration in the British calendar.
Our ancestors celebrated yuletide to argue against the darkness of mid-winter and embrace the homecoming of the sun to warm the frozen earth. Our new-found rituals link us to the past, integrating us with the natural flow of the earth's changing seasons, connecting the ancient with modern, and inviting spirit and light into our lives.
Our favourite things about Christmas
The annual ritual of bringing the outside in with evergreen foliage and decorating our homes with light, colour and uplifting artwork brings the promise of renewal and of the greener and brighter months to come. Filling our homes with foraged holly springs and pine cones reminds us of our connection to nature, and our inclination to flow with the seasons; making time for stillness during the months while the earth hibernates. In these moments of stillness, we can revel in turning inward, and making time for each other and small pleasures. In small things such as opening the pantry jars we stored with summer jam, drinking sloe gin cocktails, playing card games with friends and diving into a new book for inspiration, escapism and learning.
The coming together during the dark, cold months of winter provides a source of comfort for us all, and the excuse to gather warmly and joyfully with our nearest and dearest, to reflect on the year and feast greedily into our homemade fare. In a season full of bittersweet memories, cooking and eating together can remind us of what is joyful. With feasts come evenings of fun and frivolity, and the perfect excuse to don our sparkly jewellery and best attire. To eat, sing and dance together until our feet tire and we can slip away home, exchanging the party frocks for cosy nightwear and cotton socks.
Christmas is a time to let go of the old, and embrace the new, reflect on our past year, on our successes and shortcomings, and set intentions for the year ahead. With our familiar family rituals and creature comforts, we can savour the contrast between dark nights and cold air with the bright glow of community and warm company of our favourite things.