Winter Solstice: Winter comes. The night is long and dark. But there is hope: every day after brings more light. Give the gift of light, and maybe even warmth if you can. Snuggle in and hibernate.
This year I spent the last week of Fall making candles, to give as gifts, to friends and neighbors. It had been a long time since I made candles. I don’t make them for the farm store, as my insurance won’t cover candles (most insurances for handcrafted items won’t cover them), but I had a kit I wanted to play with, from CandleWic, that makes a dozen soy wax candles.
The kit comes with everything you need: ready to use wicks, with glue dots to hold them in place, wick clips, the tins, wax, color chips, scents, a thermometer, and a melting pot. The melting pot was one reason I bought it, as I have times where I need a paraffin melting pot!
The only drawback to candles such as this is the “scents” that come with them. I had forgotten how strong artificial scents can be. After making 4 separate batches, my head had enough of it, and I was glad to go outside and get some cold, fresh air. The candles are quite pretty though.
Tip: Once you pour the melted wax and the pot is empty, immediately wipe it out with paper towels. The wax comes right out. You can dry the towels for fire starters! I used chopsticks for stirring (those also are great fire starters).
As a child I grew up in religious cult. Where I grew up was rural, and the local branch was very strict. Christmas was not celebrated, nor were we ever told fanciful stories about Santa. Santa didn’t exist, and that was that. Growing up, I was always very sad during the Holidays, as I looked into a perceived reality that didn’t exist. What I saw was a mix of advertising (a jolly Santa selling possessions), and the green jealousy of friends’ homes that had a christmas tree loaded with shiny packages under it. Kids always asked after holiday break “what did you get”, and not being able to understand how to say anything back. It was isolating. I wasn’t old enough to know then that many people didn’t celebrate Christmas, but most of them faked it publicly to get by.
In my late teens and early adulthood, after leaving the cult, I tried to find new traditions. I celebrated my first Christmas when I was 18, in the little apartment I rented at college. I had pinched pennies to get a tiny 5 foot tree. And it meant nothing to me. A very hollow feeling. It was just a tree. Pretty, yes. But it meant nothing to me. I spent the holiday alone, my boyfriend at his parents, who were strict Catholics. Just twinkling green lights to keep me company, that didn’t make me any happier. I didn’t put up a tree for years after.
After my oldest was born, I really tried for him, but it is impossible for me to tell a lie to him that I never believed in. I could lie about the Tooth Fairy, but not Santa. It was just so fake, I couldn’t say it. Thing is…kids are pretty flexible. Over the years, I realized what was more important is the kids had traditions and fit in at school. So I give them gifts, but they know they come from us. Most years we have a tree, that I do enjoy decorating. There is no pretense though – it’s winter decor. And it works out well enough.
However, there was a winter where I felt truly happy. My oldest was a few months old (19 years ago) and a good friend and I decided to celebrate the winter solstice instead. It was so wonderful. A house full of people, and I cooked for everyone. We baked bread trenchers (think long loaves, that you cut in half, take out the inner, and use as serving trays), and all the ingredients had to predate American discoveries.
The first winter Kirk and I were together, we went camping on the Solstice. It was so cold in the Olympic Mountains, clear skies. We dined on the “fanciest” burritos I made for us (tortilla + beans + rice), and we car camped in the back of my Ford Explorer. But for this tiny sliver of time, we sat outside, in the cold, burning the candles I had bought him as a gift.
It isn’t the actual holiday that matters, but rather the being near to those that make us feel warm. I’d rather celebrate the coming light, than celebrate an idea invented/stolen to sell consumer ideas. I mean, Krampus isn’t exactly family friendly 😉 But if it is your thing, I won’t be negative. And I love the look of holiday decor…..
But you might get a gift of light from me. On the darkest day, surround yourself with the warmth of fire – and if you can – friends and loved ones. Someday I might have a fireplace I can burn a yule log fire in. Until then, it’ll be a yule fire pit outside.