I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. If something needs to get done I like to get on with it rather than waiting for a special day. However the downtime between Christmas and New Year, the dark nights and the extravagant weather is a good opportunity for a bit of reflection by the fire about one’s hopes and aspirations for the year ahead..
I don’t think we are alone in gathering round the hearth to play games or listen to stories at Christmas, to string up fairylights or to light lots of candles at this time of year. But we tend to do this during the rest of the year as well. I like to keep that special relaxed holiday mood going in part throughout the rest of the year – which can be frantic for any family with young children.
I have come to realise that fire and light have always played a large part in my life. I’m sure it’s something to do with being a Celt – they were big on fire! And it definitely runs in the family. When clearing out the loft at my late parents’ house in Wales over Christmas we discovered nine sets of working fairylights all carefully packed away and enough candles to keep us going for the rest of the year.
If you live in a rural area where power cuts are frequent and in a cottage with no central heating you soon find that you’re pretty expert in getting a fire going and working by candlelight. My children are all expert firemakers, scrunching up newspaper, criss crossing the dry kindling and making a pyramid with a couple of yesterday’s part-burned logs. They know about which wood burns best and how to split and season logs.
None of this is essential these days, of course. We just like the feeling you get whilst watching a candle flickering in the kitchen or on the terrace, seeing fairylights twinkling on a tree, hearing the logs crackling in the hearth or smelling the woodsmoke as it curls up from a bonfire. All our parties and special gatherings tend to involve candles and fires too. We cook over a firepit on summer evenings and our winter family suppers are candlelit ones.
So if you resolve to do nothing else this year – spend a little time as a family sitting round the fire or at a candlelit table. Collect kindling and learn to build a fire. Build a firepit in the garden. Make your own beeswax candles or decorate your own glass jars and make some lanterns to string up in the trees. It’s a moment of calm in a crowded world.