The winter solstice is Monday, marking the shortest day and the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere.
For centuries, people have relied on light to carry them through the year’s darkest time, gathering around fires to share spirit and warmth. This year, many are returning to that tradition, meeting outside to avoid circulating the virus in close quarters. While gatherings may be small, that doesn’t make them less memorable. Here are a few ideas for keeping warm, inside and out.
Make it bright. Lights create a magical atmosphere. Use strings of lights to define outdoor spaces or bring out the lanterns used during camping season. Luminaria, a candle set in sand inside a paper bag, is a charming way to light up pathways. These are easy to make: Fold down the top of the white or brown paper bag and fill it with a couple cups of sand. Set a votive candle or, even safer, a flameless LED candle, inside. Take it to the next level by cutting out designs on the sack. You can also create reusable luminarias with empty tin cans. Punch holes in the can using a nail or hole puncher to make geometric shapes like stars.
Smells like holiday spirit. Don’t underestimate the power of smell when it comes to ambiance. Scented candles abound in stores. You can make a candle into a scented candle by adding a couple drops of essential oil to melted wax. If you have an outdoor fireplace or a chiminea you could burn a cinnamon stick, dried cedar wood or orange or lemon peels.
Add furnishings. Sitting on an ice cold plastic chair quickly makes for a miserable time. Use cushions to keep buns warm. If you don’t have extra cushions, use folded blankets or towels. If the weather isn’t frightful, consider taking indoor furniture outside. Have extra blankets, scarves, hats and mittens on hand to wrap up in.
A cup of cheer. Warm and hot drinks will keep internal fires burning. Recipes abound online. Here’s some ideas: apple cider mulled with ginger, cloves, cinnamon and cranberries; chai; Mexican hot chocolate; mulled wine; hot toddy; Irish coffee; and hot buttered rum. Keep drinks warm and ready to serve in a crock pot.