November: darkness embraces us. Falling leaves give way to bare branches as Autumn edges ever closer to Winter. Warm breath meets cold air. The first frosts grace the ground, transforming our surroundings – a temporarily frozen world. Gradually first, then all at once the cold makes its arrival felt; a sudden storm, howling winds. It’s time to hunker down, to slow, to savour the darkness. Here are my slow living November tips for things to create and celebrate this month:
Limited daylight hours and even less sunshine can take their toll come November, yet a shift in mindset can help to reclaim this time of year, especially when the world is feeling so bleak. Embrace the darkness for an evening: no unnatural lights – just candles and firelight – and cook something comforting. The art of lighting a fire teaches patience, and there are lessons to be learned from the fire itself: built too big and it will rapidly burn out, the long slow burn provides the best warmth. If you can, cooking on an open fire will take you back to basics, even toasting marshmallows over the flames will provide primitive pleasure. Watch the flames as the night deepens, curled in blankets and talking over the crackling logs.
Diwali takes place on 14th November this year, the festival associated with the Hindu goddess Lakshmi and celebrating the triumph of good over evil. The five-day “festival of lights” takes place over the darkest days of the lunar month, with diya lamps, candles, lanterns and rangoli decorations as well as firework displays symbolising the power of light to overcome the dark. Bonfire Night also takes place on the 5th of the month in the UK, with ritual fireworks displays and the burning of guys to mark the foiled gunpowder plot. There’s a reason so many of November’s festivities revolve around light and fire, bringing cheer at this all-encompassing, dark time of year – even if socially distanced.
Slow Christmas Preparation
The call of consumerism has a strong hold but resist the high street’s urge to hurtle towards Christmas and inevitable spending, particularly in the current climate. Make lists if you want and get ahead in your plans, particularly if you’re making presents by hand or spreading the cost of gifts. Buy local and independent if you can, they need our help even more this year. Although I have a strictly-no-decorations-up-until-December rule in my house, I still enjoy the first seasonal ritual, ‘Stir-up Sunday’ – the term for the last Sunday before Advent when traditionally, families would gather to make their Christmas pudding to allow a proper boozy soaking and sufficient ripening before Christmas consumption. The ritual ought to involve the stirring of the pudding from East to West (a reminder of the Three Kings) by each family member, the addition of a lucky coin and wish making. Regardless of whether you follow these traditions to the letter, a little planning can go a long way when it comes to Christmas, even if it’s set to look a little different this year.
Although now strongly associated with a certain dark day of the week and impossible deals in the run-up to Christmas, the principle of Thanksgiving is a simple one at its heart: a day of giving thanks and sacrifice for harvest blessings of the year. Although most strongly associated with America and Canada – a development from English protestant harvest celebrations – other countries from Germany to Japan have variations on this theme around the last week of November each year. Get back to the original meaning of the holiday and embrace the true Thanksgiving with a seasonal feast with good food, good company and gratitude. Identify the things you’re grateful for – big or small – to ground you at this busy time of year.
Learn and Share
These dark days as Autumn turns to Winter are a great time to get to grips with a new craft or skill, particularly before the Christmas rush and with so many of us spending our time at home. Something about engaging your brain in learning something creates a sense of satisfaction like no other. Set aside time to teach yourself online or join a digital class or hashtag project – particularly good to hold yourself accountable for that me-time. Fill your creative cup for no productive reason other than it pleases you. Have you always wanted to learn flower arranging? Wreath making? Embroidery? Invest this time in yourself and get lost in the creative flow. I’d love if you joined in with my Autumn hashtag on Instagram, #myodetoautumn where I’m posting daily creative prompts this month to appreciate small, slow seasonal moments during this challenging time.
(Pumpkins previous gift from Kilduff Farm).