We’ll experience the longest and the darkest night of the year as well as the shortest day on December 21, 2021.
In Southern California, rain is in the forecast. Our drought-stricken land needs this second bout of rain this month. Not too much because I haven’t patched my roof yet, and there’s still a wet stain in the ceiling from last week.
The long, rainy day in store for us reminds me that we’re entering the season of preparing, nesting, and rest, as well as the reflection of the outgoing year.
For me, the winter solstice is the beginning of customs and practices in my life that keep me moving forward.
Pulling out the Christmas boxes from the attic, setting up the Nativity, watching the cats dart under the tree, and recollecting where the ornaments came from all set me in a mood for winter. We buy little bundles of firewood and light the fireplace once or twice a year. Doing these things is like assembling memories of times past for my present.
I begin preparing for the holiday gatherings and meals that we’ll share together. I don’t bake Christmas cookies, but I make a holiday drink, champurrado, that people love. It’s time-intensive, but I enjoy making it four or five times in December. The aroma of cinnamon sticks, Mexican chocolate, and anise fill the house, which smells like winter.
The other custom is making tamales two or three days before Christmas. When I continue the tradition of tamale making with my kids or sisters, I reflect on the generations of women in my lineage preparing for the holidays and the stories they shared. Stories we no longer hear because they’re gone, but we share them with the next generation, so they won’t forget who they are and where they came from.
The days between Christmas and New Year’s also have me recollecting what I’ve done this past year and my intentions for the next seasons of my years.
I’ll take my journal “Full of Ideas,” a cup of coffee or champurrado, snuggle in my armchair and read what I wrote last year.
Then I jot down ideas for the next four seasons. The notes become a sort of wish list. I keep it simple.
I ask myself what direction I want to take with my family, home (yes, a new roof), writing life, volunteering, how many books I want to read, and travel plans.
After those few things, I’m ready to rest and enjoy the quiet moments.
Until next year: best wishes for a simple and peaceful holiday.