Although January lacks the merriment of December’s festive atmosphere, it has its own moments of ritual, tradition and celebration.
For us, January always begins with a walk; striding out to meet the new year. Often this is when we share our thoughts for the twelve months ahead, not resolutions, but ideas and intentions. There will always be a good raking over of the year gone by too.
This year’s walk took us through the village and out into the lanes to a favourite old bus stop for flask opening time. There were moments of magic: the rainbow that arched above us as we left the village, the dying hare that breathed its last under the gaze of the super moon.
The moon itself appeared as an apparition – glimpsed as the clouds shifted; a mysterious bright light in the sky that disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Once our brains had registered what we had actually seen, we willed the clouds to shift again. And when they did we were amazed at the sheer size and brightness our near celestial neighbour.
Cold followed quickly as the moon began her climb through the heavens; a deep chill that took the last life from the beautiful brown hare. We headed home in the moonglow to warm ourselves in front of the stove.
Our next moment was Twelfth Night, marked with fruit filled cakes and followed next day with a Wassail, out in the orchards of Britwell Cum Sotwell, where the ancient apple trees are bedecked with globes of mistletoe. We joined a merry band to keep this old tradition alive, tapping the trees with sticks, hanging cider soaked toast among the boughs, and covering our ears as gun shots ricocheted through the cold air.
These little celebrations help mark the passing days; excuses to pause daily life, enjoy time with friends and family, and be wholly in the moment. So what others can we claim as ways to shape the year and spread some cheer? Well, later this month comes Old Twelfth Night, which falls on 17 January, then St Dwynwen’s Day and Burn’s Night on 25 January. Why not invent your own traditions too, like taking part in the annual Big Garden Birdwatch, celebrating the beauty of frost in this our coldest month of the year, making note of the first signs of life outside such as the newly-risen spears of snowdrops, or going stargazing on a cold, clear night. You will soon find that January can be filled with plenty of magic to lift your spirits.