Known for its hustle and bustle, diminishing sunlight and often unmet expectations around Christmas, the winter season can be a lonely and difficult time for many. For these reasons, it can be easy to overlook the simple gifts and beauty of winter. The winter months of December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere can be a time of reflection that compels us to examine the year gone by. Overlaid onto the phases of the moon, winter correlates with the dark moon, considered a time of rest and rejuvenation as we await the fecund energies of spring. What better time for hot chocolate, warm fireside chats while we peruse our favorite seed catalogues and dream about the upcoming growing season? Traditionally winter was a time of feasting, when pantries and root cellars were full of cured meats and preserves from the recent harvest and friends and family came together in celebration. Seasonally available fresh vegetables could include parsnips, celeriac root, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and citrus fruits imported from warmer climates. A nature walk in winter, though stark and maybe a little cold, reveals some of the most stunning sceneries as mother nature cloaks her landscape in snow and frost. Early winter is also the time when hundreds or thousands of starlings gather together and turn about in the air simultaneously, called a murmuration. Scientists still don’t understand how or why the small birds do this in such perfect synchronization, but bearing witness to this phenomenon can truly be one of nature’s most mesmerizing sights.
What’s in a Name?
December got its name from the Latin word Decem meaning ten. This is because December was originally the tenth month of the Roman year. March was thought of as the beginning of the year while January and February were not even recognized as months, just collectively lumped together as "winter". This explains why the astrological cycle begins with Aries. It wasn't until around 700 BC that the second king of Rome named January after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions and February after the Latin term februum, which means purification, via the purification ritual Februa held during the February full moon. Both new months were assigned 28 days in order to help the Romans measure how long it took for the earth to cycle around the sun. Nobody seems to know how or when January picked up those extra few days.
If you're enjoying this blog post and would like to read more about some of the astronomical sights coming up in the next few months, how I plan to close out the year with a special full moon ceremony to release past traumas (and dramas), learn more about a certain plant that can be wild foraged just about anywhere, anytime of year and discover a very unique food item you can make with it, please head over to my good friend, Rosemary Hansen's website, Rosemary Pure Living, where she showcases a wide array of scrumptious recipes and tips on incorporating healthy lifestyle practices.