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Celebrating Winter Holidays - January Through Early Spring - What's In It For Me?
Submitted by Pam on Mon, 02/03/2014 - 23:03
February 14 - Valentine's Day! Since this is a made-up merchant's day, rather than buy into the whole idea of spending lots of cash on roses and chocolates, I mark the day with expressions of appreciation. Most especially to the people who send us business referrals during the year. We have so many opportunities during the year to appreciate our loved ones - why not think of other's who make our lives a little better?
This post is for those of you (especially those who have "found" this blog recently) who are curious about what has compelled me to "adopt" and celebrate so many winter holidays! Especially holidays not celebrated by most citizens of my own country! In a word the answer is - WINTER!
Winter darkness, winter cold, winter weather, always a challenge in the northern hemisphere, is the perfect setting for celebrations of light and warmth and merriment! What better way to get through five long months of winter than to sprinkle them with celebrations?
A quick peak at a yearly calendar will make it quite apparent that most cultural celebrations occur in the winter - and then another round of harvest related celebrations in the fall. Summer? Very little need for deflecting our attention! It's warm and sunny and not only are we busy tending our gardens but we are planning vacations and excursions, picnics, ball games, and hikes!
In the time I have been blogging, I have become acquainted with many holidays and celebrations recognized in countries throughout northern Europe. And I have joined in with my own little celebrations because I feel that it brings me closer to connecting with my own ancestral roots and to understanding and respecting other world cultures. It helps to remind me that this neighborhood, city, state and country in which I live is just a tiny part of the world as it is now and has been before.
AND little celebrations during winter and early spring help immensely to break the tedium of waiting out winter.
So! With all of that in mind - here are the special days I am currently celebrating! Most on the list have been around a long long time - I tend not to celebrate more recently "manufactured" holidays so much. Many days of celebration began with connections to religion but have evolved and now are recognized and celebrated by a large cross-section of population. If you happen to know of a celebration I have missed - please let me know!!
Christmas needs little explanation! The turn of the seasons - autumn into winter and falling on the winter solstice (December 20) - has been celebrated in one way or another since ancient days. Nowadays Christmas is center stage, but relegating Christmas to just one day - well - read this about how I feel about that! It should give some clues to why I begin celebrating in early December and don't stop dead cold in my tracks on December 26th!
The 12 Days of Christmas begin on December 26th and last until January 6th - Epiphany. In many cultures throughout northern Europe and South America, this 12 day period, marked with gatherings of family and friends, often ends with a special celebratory cake. You can check out some of the recipes for simple 12th Night Cakes I have tried right here.
January 7th - following right on the heels of the 12 Days of Christmas - Rock Day! The day when people everywhere are expected to return to their work and for women of ancient times that would often be spinning. You might find this article interesting!
I celebrate by burying my fingers in my delicious stash of roving and attempting a bit of spinning - or felting!
January 13th - St. Knute's Day - the day to "plunder and burn the Christmas tree". Some people believe it is bad luck to leave holiday decorations about beyond this day. But since I prefer Feb. 2nd. as the last day Christmas should be in the house before bad luck sets in, I use the time between St. Knute's Day and Mid-winter/Brigid's Day to remove holiday decorations.
January 25th - Robbie Burns Day - Celebrating the cherished bard of Scotland. I celebrate simply because we are of Scottish decent and eating a lovely Chicken Leek Soup and out of season raspberries with whipped cream is a lovely way to honor part of my ancestry!
February 2nd - Brigid's Day/ Midwinter/ Candlemas/ Imbolc/ Groundhog Day! Read this for a pretty thorough explanation of the day. It is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox. I celebrate by making Brigid's Crosses, seeking out signs of spring in the garden and eating pancakes! This is also the day I add to my planning calendar tasks for cleaning the garden and spring house cleaning chores - all to be completed before March 20th!.
I would like to propose that this year anyone reading this take the time to leave a comment of appreciation on at least one blog that has provided inspiration or pleasure during the past year. More if time permits - but at least one. Commenting has all but died in favor of "likes" and other more instantaneous forms of social media. Tell your favorite bloggers you appreciate them.
March 1 - St. David's Day - a special day of celebration in Wales - home to my great grandfather before coming to America. I like to mark the day by eating a delicious lamb and leek stew and if I can find them, enjoying a bouquet of daffodils! Read more about St. David's Day here and here.
March 17th - St. Patrick's Day - which needs no explanation!
March 20th - The Vernal Equinox - first day of Spring! And apparently also an International Day of Happiness (more here about that)! Unless it is raining, I spend at least a part of the day in my garden - a perfect place to find signs of spring and happiness at the same time.
March 25th - Waffle Day (Sweden) - need I say more? I eat waffles!!! Early celebrations of the day actually began with a bit of confusion but is now a day on which waffles are enjoyed. I rather like the suggestion offered at the end of this post! I think I shall turn it into my day for waffle exploration!
Easter and the special observances that accompany it appear on different days each year - sometimes beginning in early February and sometimes ending near the end of April!
Observations begin the Thursday before Ash Wednesday the beginning of Lent - a 40 day period of self denial in preparation for Easter. Some countries (Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Poland) begin the season on Thursday before Ash Wednesday by eating a kind of cream filled cake - however, I prefer cream puffs! And this year I am trying something I've never tried before - cream filled Sopapillas! Lovely ice cold vanilla flavored custard spooned into hot right out of the fryer sopapillas and eaten immediately!
Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Pancake Day occurs on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and long ago was a day on which the larder was cleared of tasty items like sugar ... and so we have things like King Cake to eat!! Pancakes are also very popular on this day and are my choice for celebrating!
For the more adventurous, festivals designed to get all the playfulness out of our systems before Lent begin on Shrove Thursday and last through Shrove Tuesday. Note worthy festivals appear in Germany and in New Orleans.
Thursday before Easter in Sweden is known as Skartorsdagen - and children in every household dress up as Easter Witches and wander the neighborhood in search of treats! I don't celebrate as such - no young children in my home! BUT I do have beautiful Easter Witches to keep me company!
Easter - This year April 20th.
And finally the end of the cold season marked with bon fires and flowers and dancing. I can't very well light a bon fire in my neighborhood but I do float candles in my little pond, cook a special meal and the next day celebrate with flowers picked from my garden!
April 30th - Valbourg or Walpurgis Night - goodbye to winter - celebrated in Scandinavia and in many parts of the USA. Here is a link to a Valbourg's celebration in San Diego!! I just bet with the help of good ole google you can find one nearby!
May 1 - May Day! Warm, flower filled days ahead!