Tights! Candles! Action! It’s time to winter and unhook our metaphorical mind bras
Winter is all about rituals, reunion and most importantly, roast potatoes. Esther O’Moore Donohoe shares how she’ll be burning the candle at both ends this season after a long time wintering.
Winter is my spiritual home. I hold it close to my jumper and thermal vest-clad bosom. I love all this season brings and welcome every one of its ancient traditions, including the annual Reintroducing of the Heavy Blanket to the Bed and the Dusting Off of the Tights to See If You Can Get A Second Year Out of Them. Truly, it is a magical time of year.
Technically, winter starts in December, but you can never start your winter prep too early, in my opinion. Every household is different, but I begin stockpiling candles around October in the run-up to the shorter days. You should do what feels comfortable for you, though. Personally, I love candles so much that I’ve given them their own dedicated Big Shelf above the tea and coffee bits in the kitchen. There, pillar candles, tea lights and LED fake flicker-ers all live side by side waiting for the day I set their heads on fire/switch them on. Last year, I amassed so many beeswax candles from the Dunnes in Rathmines that they put a picture of me by the till with the warning, “Do not sell this woman any more beeswax stock. She simply has too many.”
But being a candle owner isn’t all soft, flickering shadows and mesmeric flames. Consider the following scenarios before you indulge this season: 1. You lock your front door and you think, “Did I blow out all the candles?” 2. You’re in bed, just about to nod off and you think, “Did I blow out all the candles?” 3. You’re sitting by a blown-out candle in your sitting room, the extinguished smoke still rising, and you think, “Did I blow out all the candles?” My top tip for combatting these intrusive thoughts is to record yourself blowing out every single one of them before you leave your home or go to bed. In addition, accepting from the outset that they will consume all your thoughts from the moment you light them will make the process easier. You may even need to step back from work and temporarily phase out family and friends from December to February in order to manage the commitment.
Putting candle fear aside, winter is the most wonderful time of year. Boughs of holly, waiting in the wings for approximately 335 days, come into their own, ready to deck halls. Wine starts spontaneously mulling itself and it also becomes socially acceptable to free-pour gravy into our mouths at any time of the day or night. And where there’s gravy, a roast dinner is not too far behind. In my book, the roast dinner breaks free from the shackles of Sundays once it starts to get dark from four o’clock. However, as with the candles, there are things to bear in mind to ensure you’re a responsible roaster. It’s important to make sure that if you’re having people (me) over for a home carvery experience, guests (me) like to see at least three roasties per plate, a sidebar of mash as well as some kind of creamy, garlicky potato concoction. Lean into your Irishness by embracing the potato and all forms of stodge during the colder months. It’ll make the winter holliers jollier.
It goes without saying, of course, that the Queen of the winter months is undoubtedly December. Festive jumpers are pulled from the back of the chest of drawers on the first of the month, marking the start of party season. It is also when incidents of Treat Yourself-itis skyrocket (NPHET advise socially distancing from your credit card to stop the spread of this particular disease, FYI). But if the last (almost) two years have taught us anything, it’s that the most valuable thing we can spend is time with loved ones. That said, there is also a strong argument to be made for brand name gifts or the cash equivalent when exchanging seasonal tokens. After all, nothing says “I love you” more than a One4All voucher or 50 quid tenderly shoved inside a card that you’ll never read.
December is also prime time for catching up with the people we’ve been apart from for so long. And who amongst us hasn’t experienced the festive thrill of being reunited with your family after they accidentally leave you at home whilst they jet off to Paris for “the holidays”. Oh no, wait… That’s the plot of Home Alone. But it’s not all family reunions and gaudy geansaí. It’s also a time of reflection and contemplation. As the days get shorter and we’re drawn indoors, our thoughts can turn inwards. To be honest, we’ve probably had enough reflection and contemplation to last us a lifetime, but it’s unavoidable with a new year on the horizon. Don’t waste your time cringing over the ghost of bad haircuts past, though. Instead, try to stay focused on the future.
Perhaps we could all set the intention for 2022 of flying by the seat of our pants a little more. It’s time to unhook our metaphorical mind bras and gently push the boundaries of the routines we’ve gotten into over the past twelve months. This could mean making small adjustments like changing your daily coffee order or going bigger and rocking a pair of 80 denier tights as a dress for your office party à la Kim K. John in accounting won’t know where to look. He also mightn’t be able to see you. Perfect!
This winter season, I intend to spend my days in the company of my nearest and dearest. If we get a smidgen of atmospheric, non-problematic snow, that would be great, but no worries if not, the Universe! We’ve all done more than our fair share of wintering since March 2020, and now it’s time to throw on some glitter, put on ABBA 2.0 and wrap ourselves in winter light (just don’t forget to blow out those candles).
Digital illustration by Marlene Wessels. This article originally appeared in the Winter issue of IMAGE Magazine.