Wish bread and lanterns

Tomorrow is the winter solstice and also our Christmas Eve. Many traditions have been abandoned this year, no home made mincepies, no Christmas biscuits, no Christmas cake (we usually make Dundee cake as none of us are fans of really rich fruit cakes, but we love Dundee cake, it even has its own song in our house!). We have not met Santa or visited a single National Trust property. We will probably not make it to see the Christmas Lights now. We did not make our own wreath or make Christmas cards.

Im ok with those things (though I may need to make a Dundee cake in the new year). Family traditions are lovely and important, binding people together in shared experiences and memories, helping mark out the passage of our lives. I fervently believe and treasure that idea. But sometimes, well sometimes just getting through is pretty bloody marvellous too, and these traditions should lift us up joyfully, not be a stick to beat myself up for once again being a rubbish mother who works too much and neglects her children. Or to beat my children up for preferring to spend their day playing Lego Ninjago games on a painfully slow computer, than enthusiastically joining Mummy’s elaborately planned crafting session!

The winter solstice though is important to me. Not through any deeply held spiritual belief system. I know nothing really about the pagan religion and would not for a second claim any right to call myself a pagan. I think it’s just that over the last few years I have become much more aware of, and affected by,the passing of the seasons, much more deeply tied to them. By the time the shortest day arrives it really does feel VERY short, and the cold and the dark feel like they have engulfed us forever. So, having a reason to look ahead to sunshine and greenery and newly blooming flowers seems like a pretty wonderful idea. I guess that’s what winter solstice has begun to really mean for me, hope. And right now I am very pleased to have a bit more of that!

It feels like 2016 has been a tough old year for pretty much everybody. For several of the important people in my world it has been a ridiculously tough one. I can’t really complain too much personally, apart from a heavenly few months in late spring, early summer, where life felt pretty idyllic, I would mainly describe 2016 as a hard slog rather than anything more traumatic. It does feel on a more global level though that things have just taken a turn slightly for the apocalyptic. I do wonder, and worry, what 2017 can possibly bring for us all, so part of me thinks maybe it is best to just focus on what new surprises the garden will grow for us in the new earth year. Will my paeony have survived its winter underground to grow its first green shoots as the spring sunshine arrives? Will my goldengage tree flower for the first time? Will the birds steal all the cherries before I get a chance to pick them again? These are the things that I feel I can manage to dream of for the new year, as world events seem overwhelmingly scary right now. Therefore it feels more fitting to mark the beginning of the earth’s new year, its next journey around the sun, with the developments I can see and feel and taste in my garden, than wait till the 31st and the dawn of 2017. Which once again I will see in amongst the drunks in A+E.

Anyway, I seem to have been distracted into rambling, my plan had been to tell you of our solstice traditions for tomorrow. We will aim to be up and dressed and out of the house for the sunrise. Last year we drove to the beach, where there was dense fog and it rained, and we could barely see light let alone sunrise.

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As part of my reducing expectations plan we will just go to the little hill just next to our house tomorrow, just to be outside as the new day begins. That way if it’s freezing and foggy and wet we can keep it brief and run back to the warmth of our house.

When we get home we will bake Wish Bread. This is an idea I read on someone else’s blog, original source long since lost, sorry. Tonight I will make a sweet bread dough, with some warming spices and orange zest, and leave to prove overnight. When we get home from the sunrise we will each have a piece of the dough and add a variety of treats to it. I will have bowls of chocolate drops, marshmallows, dried fruits, marzipan cubes. With each of these tasty treats that you push into your ball of dough, you make a wish. A wish for the future, for the new year we are entering. For me they will be wishes of sunshine and fresh air and flowers and green leaves, with some smiles and cuddles and peace thrown in. Then we bake our buns and eat them for breakfast. The kids don’t really get the wishing but yet, but they enjoyed making and eating the buns last year, and I hope it will become a tradition that grows in significance for them in the future.

Then we shall have a fairly slow, quiet day. We are expecting our Christmas food box to be delivered so would probably be waiting in for that anyway. As it starts to get dark we have Christmas lanterns that we made last year (jam jars, tissue paper, glue and glitter) which we will light with candles and try to avoid too much electric lights (though fairy lights are obviously ok).

As it is also Christmas Eve this year there will be some extra traditions combined. Me and Hubs plan to eat smoked salmon and drink champagne. We have the GOOD bottle ready in the fridge, the bottle we have kept for years for a special occasion. We have decided that we can’t think of any occasion on the horizon that will ever be special enough, unless we won the lottery, in which case we could afford to buy another bottle. So, making it through 2016 feels pretty worthy of the bottle after all. We decided that rather than fight with the kids about eating smoked salmon, they were welcome to eat fish finger sandwiches, with extra ketchup!

Then it will be Christmas PJs, hot chocolate, popcorn, and a movie. We have always watched Muppets Christmas Carol before, my personal favourite, but my daughter has become scared by the idea of the ghosts and once again, rather than fight, I am happy to watch The Grinch yet again, with hopefully a side dish of family harmony.

I think my daughter is most excited about being allowed to find all the presents hidden (some more successfully than others) and finally put them under the tree.

Then you just have to wish us good luck for the big day itself! Happy Christmas everyone. Hope your traditions bring your joy and family harmony, xxx

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