Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 18
December 31, 2005
New Year's Eve
- My Season: Twelve Days of Transition
- Feature Article at Beliefnet: New Years Rituals
- Feedback Loop: New Years Carols
- Still to Come: January Calendar, Lucky Moons, Sun/Moon Patterns for 2006
- Living in Season: Taking Down the Xmas Greens
- Correspondence Course: Winter
- Signs of Winter
- Subscribe - Unsubscribe
Welcome to my semi-monthly newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. Please forward this newsletter if you enjoy it.
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My Season: Twelve Days of Transition
I'm in the middle of my usual end-of-the-year ritual, combing through my journals and calendar, making lists of books read, dreams dreamed, bright ideas, high points and accomplishments. This year I have the pleasure of sharing my practices and my review with the participants in the Twelve Days of Transition class who have provided me with an array of wonderful ideas for ending one year and beginning another.
This newsletter will be shorter than usual. I'm trying to get it out in time for you to read my article on New Years customs which is the feature on Beliefnet.
I've got some exciting ideas for School of the Seasons in the New Year but I'll tell you all about them next year.
May you enjoy all the bright promises of the new year,
Waverly Fitzgerald"I feel that way in the garden so many times -- so many plants I have killed. A hundred carrots sprout, I remove 90 of them. I am death. But it all goes around. Some day I will get pruned out myself. The Greater Good will look at me and say -- we could use room for some fresh new growth here, let's pull this one up, and so I go to the Big Compost Heap in the sky. With kindness and certainty. It is a false pity to be squeamish. The garden is good.
Feature Article: New Years Rituals
Thank you to Beliefnet for asking me to write and featuring my article on New Years rituals which you can find at this link, under the great title "Black-Eyed Peas, Money Trees and Other New Years Rituals:"
Several readers wrote to ask me where they could find a copy of the New Year's carol I mentioned about the Fair Maid who opens and closes the doors of the year. I haven't found an audio version online but you can find the music for it at my website along with an article on New Year's carols at this link.
Still to Come
What with the Twelve Days class and the Beliefnet article I'm behind on my postings for School of the Seasons. Check back in a few days (probably Tuesday at the earliest) to find the January calendar and my articles telling you about your lucky moons and good dates for lunar celebrations in 2006.
Living in Season: Taking Down the Christmas Greens
It might seem too early now to think about taking down your Christmas tree and any other evergreen decorations you've put up for the season, but the time will inevitably come and then it's good to know how to take them down in a ceremonial manner.
Twelfth Night, since it's the official end of the holiday season, is the earliest recommended date for taking down your Christmas greens. John Matthews in his wonderful book Winter Solstice suggests treating them with respect by thanking them for the luster they've added to your home as you remove them.
In Scandinavian countries, January 13 or St. Knut's day is the traditional date for taking down the Yule decorations. Swedes celebrate with a dance and then dismantle the Christmas tree, which is usually chopped up and burnt.
I remember the first time I ever burned a Christmas tree. My college roommates and I dragged our spindly and very dry tree out into the street in front of our duplex and set it on fire. It went up like a torch. And I'm sure we were dancing around it. Many years later, when I was living with Jerry, we decided to burn our Xmas tree but being a bit more mature, we took it to the beach and burnt it in a bonfire pit. That was a great tradition, watching our two kids, Rachel and Shaw, running around in the early dark, dipping long branches into the fire until the ends were aglow and using them to trace patterns like fireflies in the air.
But February 1 is pretty cold in Seattle. After I broke up with Jerry, I started chopping down my tree on February 1st, but saving the branches for the summer solstice bonfire. This means storing it for six months--I usually keep a plastic garbage bag full of branches in a corner of my clothes closet. I love the way it releases that Christmas odor when jostled but this could be hazardous if there is any chance of contact with heat or flame. A dried out Christmas tree is incredibly flammable.
Recently I saw a picture of an antique pine pillow with the words "I Pine for You" embroidered on the top. Apparently these were all the rage at one time: pillows stuffed with pine needles--another great use for your old Christmas tree.
Chopping all the branches off leaves the main trunk of the tree as a pole. A friend of mine, Maevyn, uses that tree trunk, set in a Xmas tree holder, as a Maypole for indoor May Day ceremonies. My daughter got a great magazine called Ready Made (a younger and hipper version of Martha Stewart's Living) as a gift from our favorite present giver. This issue featured a Christmas tree coat rack. The branches were sawed off leaving 2 or 3 inch stubs, the whole tree was painted, and left standing in a Xmas tree holder in the entry way.
If you want to keep your tree up until the last possible minute, your last chance to take it down arrives on February 1st or the Eve of Candlemas (leaving them up after that time is bad luck). This is the official last day of the Christmas season and also the last date for taking down the Christmas greens; but you can apparently replace them with box, as Robert Herrick explains in his poem, "Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve:"
Down with the Rosemary and Bayes
Down with the Mistletoe
Instead of Holly, now upraise
The greener Box (for Show).
The Holly hitherto did sway
Let Box now domineer;
Until the dancing Easter-day
Or Easters Eve appear.
Found this comprehensive website on wassailing while writing an article for my Twelve Days class. It has history, music, recipes, pictures of wassailing bowls and music.
Winter Correspondence Course
November 1st marks the shift into Winter, at least it does here at School of the Seasons. Of course, you can also order any season out of season, if you like). For a list of topics and the subjects covered in the Winter correspondence course, click here.
For an overview of the correspondence course, click here.
Signs of Winter
Here are a few of the many beautiful descriptions of the approaching winter in various parts of the world which are posted on my website under Signs of the Season.
Leah from Glasgow, Scotland writes:
The first frost has come to Glasgow. As I was walking to class yesterday morning I saw that the playing fields were completely frosted over and glittering as the sun came up. It's a good thing I left early because I walked so slowly the rest of the way, looking at the ice on the edges of the river and the fluffed-up magpies and the white-edged fallen leaves they looked like they were dusted with sugar. I hope this weather lasts but I'm sure soon it will be pouring rain again.
Mary from Solano County, California writes:
Here in Northern California, the morning air is as fresh and balmy as a March spring day, but with a crisp edge to it, as if a promise of chilly days to come. The autumn leaves fly fast and wide, brighter and a thousand times more colorful and brilliant than any I can recall in my 10 years here. The afternoon sky is so crystal blue and clear it makes my heart ache for New England.
Our winter signs are creeping steadily on: a flock of wild geese fly dark against the crimson, pink, gold and blue sunset, the peeper frog croaks have been replaced by cricket chirps, and the night wind has a wild lustiness that moans through the closed windows and tugs at our skin on our evening walks, daring us to run wild along side in the full moonlight.
To read more or to send me your signs of the season, please click here.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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