After the merry days of Christmas, and the quietly celebrated cosy days that follow, January with its-back-to-work associations can feel a flat and dismal month. And so as I start to pack up the baubles, throw out the greenery, and take down the paper chains, I’m plotting and planning some moments of cheer. After all, it may be time to bid farewell to the Lord of Misrule, but in these cold, dark nights Venus shines, and there hangs the bright crescent of a waxing moon.
There are many ways to bring cheer into the days that follow. A meal to celebrate Twelfth Night, all candle lit – with homemade paper crowns, and a cake concealing a dried pea and a dried bean, so we might become a King and a Queen for the evening. A wassail with the magic of the morris, or a simpler version of our own, with a fire lit and a mug of mulled cider with which to drink the health of our single apple tree. And a final fling at the end of the month to celebrate Burns Night.
Throughout the month a few simple ways to brighten dark days keep up our spirits. There are favourite walks to savour, and small adventures exploring neighbouring villages. There are treasures to seek in hedgerows, the first buds and shoots, and Jack Frost’s wintery trace.
The cold brings a flock of redwings that fling the fallen birch leaves on the front lawn, and the flitting flights of long-tailed tits from tree heights to hedge and back again. The robins never miss a movement from within the house, cocking their heads each time we appear at the kitchen window to wash the dishes or fill a glass. The wrens are alert and chirpy, and the blackbird with one white wing feather sings as, just for a moment, the sky behind the copse catches fire before the sun goes down.
And in the long, dark evenings, there are plans to make for the year ahead. Dreams to dream in the firelight, and wishes to cast. January is full of promise, and there is much to be grateful for.