I feel a sense of calm whenever I gaze into a candle. The same goes for when I smell a fire in winter. Calm isn't easy to capture at this time of year, but it's so wonderful when you find moments of it. I'm not a winter complainer. I welcome the winter solstice with open arms. I love that "snug" and "cozy" feeling you get that Laura Ingalls Wilder so often talks about in her Little House books. I felt all snug and cozy at the Bergen County Historical Society's annual Colonial Christmas concert. I know Laura didn't live in Colonial times, her childhood was much later in the 1800s, but what she talks about and what was celebrated is so universal: enjoying good food, spending time with loved ones, the joy of small things, like a pair of red mittens.
The rooms in their Black Horse Tavern were aglow.
Enjoying their special holiday menu: Sweet potato cheddar soup, with a cheddar biscuit, and a poughman plate with cheese, bread and butter, a pickle, tomato, and cucumber salad.
Bread pudding, and hot mulled cider.
Carrots and hay, treats for Santa's hungry reindeer.
Mary crushing herbs in the Dutch Out Kitchen.
Remembering Laura's food memories of Christmas in Little House on the Prairie,
"For Christmas dinner there was a tender, juicy roasted turkey. There were the sweet potatoes baked in ashes and carefully wiped so you could eat the skins, too. There was a loaf of salt-rising bread made from the last of the white flour. And after all that there were stewed dried blackberries and little cakes. But these little cakes were made with brown sugar and they did not have white sugar sprinkled over their tops."
A foot warmer to bring to church, sometimes given to women with their initials on them by a suitor, and a yellow hot water bottle for sleigh rides. Imagine taking a sleigh ride to where you're going for Christmas. Does it seem fun or make you more grateful for your heated car?
Christmas music, yes, but this was also a celebration of light and the solstice, and of bringing joy into the homes and hearts during a dark time.
A holiday wreath. The five apples represent the planets that were known at that time, and mistletoe hangs below. The greenery was a symbol of life when the land was barren and not much grew.
From Little House in the Big Woods,
"Santa Claus had been there. Alice and Ella and Laura in their red flannel nightgowns and Peter in his red flannel shirt.
In each stocking there was a pair of bright red mittens, and there was a long, flat stick of red-and-white-striped peppermint candy, all beautiful and notched along each side. They were all so happy they could hardly speak at first. They just looked with shining eyes at those lovely Christmas presents."
"Christmas comes but once a year," said Aunt Eliza.
I hope in your holiday season you found moments filled with light, wonder and calm.