Winter Is My Favorite Season of the Year
by Judith Ashley
December 29, 2022
Winter is my favorite season of the year. I prefer the cool and cold to the warm and hot temperatures. Air quality is generally much better also. I love grey days with a drizzle of rain.
And snow? Yes, please!
And yes, I do have a favorite winter holiday. Time, as in decades, pass and what was once a favorite holiday can morph into something else entirely my own creation.
Growing up, Christmas was a major event. My mom started baking in October with a special white fruit cake that people begged for. November and early December cookies, candy and a special Christmas bread filled the house with the scents of the season. Plates, tins and bowls were filled with holiday treats. When family and friends came by, they left with one of those plates, tins or bowls.
I was in my teens when I was invited to help my mom. I was a bit younger when I was old enough to help make the family’s apple, bacon, sage dressing and plucked pin feathers from the turkey. My tasks whether with fruit cake, Christmas bread, or sage dressing was to chop candied fruit, nuts, and bread into the right size for the recipes. That was the female side of the holiday.
My dad was in charge of getting out all of the boxes and bins of decorations and The Tree…finding the perfect one, putting on the lights, overseeing the hanging of ornaments and putting up wreaths and swags where mom wanted them.
In those earlier years, we made gifts for each other. Getting something store-bought was a special treat. I have memories, not always fond, of making pomades by sticking cloves in oranges and tying netting to clothes hangers.
Christmas Eve we could open one package from someone who would not be spending Christmas Day with us. Fortunately we had two twigs on the maternal family tree who lived in other parts of the country. And for many years we went to Christmas Eve services.
Christmas morning? Bacon, eggs, hash browns along with the Christmas Bread my mom had made. Oh, we could check out stockings before breakfast and open anything Santa had left us, but not the presents under the tree.
Not until after breakfast. Of course my dad ate slowly, savored every bite and had the second or third cup of coffee. My brothers and I squirmed and pleaded to no avail. Dad contentedly chewed and sipped. Mom, I don’t think any of us paid any attention to her in those very long minutes waiting for breakfast to be over.
Dad, our Santa, which is why Mom got short shrift, doled out the gifts making sure everyone had one before anything could be opened. In the early days Mom would write down the gift and who it was from so we could write our Thank You letters. As we got older, we made our own lists.
December 1997, my dad’s last Christmas, we strove to hold to the as many of the above traditions as we could. My mom had not done the baking of cookies and candies and fruit cakes in years. I made an effort to step into the breach. I made peanut brittle, baked apple, pumpkin and mincemeat pie. I did some and we bought fudge and rocky road candy and Christmas bread from the bakery.
My dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer, undergone treatment that gave him a few more months with us. Because the cancer had spread we knew this would be his last Christmas.
My brothers picked out the tree. That was daunting because we all knew what high standards this tree must meet. Hauling it into the house and holding it up, turning it around and around so all sides could be viewed, we all breathed a sigh of relief when Dad approved. From the couch, he supervised the hanging of the lights, decorations, and any other accoutrements.
We, my brothers and I, made an effort to replicate those family traditions with my mom over the next four years to no avail. Christmas was forever changed.
My own Christmas traditions were closely tied to the ones I grew up with. My son and then granddaughters, with slight variations, had the tree hunt, the decorating, the Christmas Eve gift, the Christmas morning stockings and breakfast.
And in the mid 1990’s I added my own traditions. Driving around with my granddaughters to see the Christmas lights was our favorite. We’d talk about the best ones and once home we enjoyed a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows.
During this decade I added Winter Solstice celebrations. I’d joined a women’s circle in 1993 and initially I celebrated the shortest day and longest night with them.
As the early years of the 21st Century passed, I shifted more and more from those long held family traditions and created ones that better fit who I was growing into.
My house is small so the first tradition to go was the humongous tree. I tried a live tree and even planted it but then it grew and I ended up cutting it down. I had a collection of trees, glass, wood, ceramic, and stuffed that were arranged on the small dining room table. Currently they are packed away in bins in the basement. Wonderful stocking hangers graced the mantel along with greens and holly. Another collection was of Santa’s, including a couple of pillows. Christmas cards were hung up around the doorways.
Outside Christmas lights decorated the front porch. I’ve never taken them down. When I turn the porch light on? A bit of the winter holiday season appears!
Time passed and as my family moved on to their own places, I realized that what I wanted to celebrate during this winter season had changed.
I think a major impact on that shift came about when I started writing The Sacred Women’s Circle series. The day and night dreams were clear and compelling as these seven women came to me with their stories. My job was to write them down and share them with the world. Strangers became sisters through practicing and sharing and supporting each other. Because these women were connected through their sacred women’s circle, my own spiritual practices were enhanced.
These days I still have Christmas lights outside and along my fireplace mantel. I will purchase a wreath or swag for the front door and another one for inside. I love the evergreen fragrance. I will light candles on Winter Solstice, go outside to find Grandmother Moon and say a few prayers. I am grateful for the turn of the Wheel of Life and the return of the light.
Time to reflect, to look back on the year coming to an end, to look forward to the year just starting, brings me peace and contentment.
Winter Solstice – Even in the Darkest Night I trust with an inner knowing that The Light is returning and with it will come opportunities to know, to grow, to share, to love. Even in the Darkest Night, I will always choose Love and Light.
Judith Ashley has been a part of sacred women’s circles for over twenty years and knows first-hand how important spirituality is when dealing with life’s challenges. She writes both fiction and nonfiction that reflect her spiritual beliefs and her teaching practice. The stories that make up The Sacred Women’s Circle series flooded through her in daydreams, lucid dreams, and conversations so real at times she wondered about her sanity. It was a compelling experience! An experience that was a catalyst to starting her journey to tell these stories and see them published. You can learn more about Judith from her website.