The star is, I think, one of the most magical and evocative of our Christmas associations. And it is now, in the depths of midwinter, with the longest nights upon us, that we are often treated to some of the clearest views of the stars; especially in the countryside where, at this time of year, away from the light pollution of the cities, crisp, cold nights promise star-spangled skies and expansive winter constellations.
Many parts of the UK have been nominated as Dark Sky Discovery sites – places that are best for star-gazing. You can find out where your nearest site is here. Exmoor National Park affords the darkest skies of all, and has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve in recognition of its special character.
I often wonder what our ancestors thought about the night sky, and how it must have fascinated them. But conversely, at this point in the year, with the winter solstice drawing near, the focus of their attention would have been on that brightest of all the stars in our solar system – our daytime sun – which tomorrow makes its lowest climb of the year through the sky. Ancient monuments such as Newgrange in Ireland hint at the meanings early humans assigned to the seasonal shift brought about by the solstice.
And I was also pleased to see this prompt because I have some little stars of my own to share with you.
They are made with air-dry clay in exactly the same way as my button mushrooms (see blog post here for how to make them). I used star shaped cookie cutters, and stems and seed-heads from the garden to make the spangly impressions in the clay.
Some will hang from the tree when it goes up at the weekend; others are being used as pretty embellishments for gifts. They match perfectly with this delicate hedgerow-inspired wrapping paper from Marks and Spencer, along with gift tags made from luggage labels decorated with a hand-drawn pen and ink design.