I’ll be honest: the days in between Christmas and New Year – recently dubbed by the media as Betwixtmas – used to fill me with a sense of imperceptible dread. As someone who lives their life around a fixed timetable, the annual rhythm of terms and the ring of the school bell, this limbo time where you don’t know what day it is used to leave me uneasy.
However, in recent years I’ve learned to embrace it. Much like the seasonal shifts themselves, there’s quiet magic in those in-between moments of slowness if you’re lucky enough not to be working at this time of year. Whether you celebrate the festive season or not, the world turns at a slower pace and sleepiness descends. There’s a timelessness about this week-long period that is disorientating at first, as time seems to become an abstract concept stretching on into infinity. But there’s also something incredibly liberating about it too. I’ve learned to see it like the Norwegians – they call this period ‘Romjul’, a time meant for spending at home with friends and family that is synonymous with slowness and reflection, cosying up and long walks in nature.
If you do have time off between Christmas and New Year, I say fully embrace the slowness and don’t resist the hibernation instinct. Growing up, these days were synonymous with working my way through a pile of books from Santa and truly immersing myself in fictional worlds. As I got older, non-fiction joined the ranks and I would dip in and out of autobiographies or bookmark recipes in the latest addition to my cookbook collection. I heartily recommend Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas stories at this time of year; wonderful to read in short bursts around trips to the fridge or simply to devour in one sitting.
On that note, this should be a time for enjoying leftovers and working your way through the Christmas treats. Maybe try that tricky baking project like croissants from aforementioned new cookbook, or why not rustle up something creative with the leftovers? Just avoid turkey curry à la Bridget Jones at all costs. This is also the time of year for long Winter walks, bundled in layers. Curling up by the fire afterwards will be all the sweeter after the crisp, cold air. Embrace traditional past-times, from games to jigsaw puzzles. Put your phone away for the day, watch a classic film with your loved ones or make something together.
Romjul is also a time to recharge and mentally prepare for the year ahead while reflecting on the year past. Here, our instinct to compare our lot with others’ often kicks in; instead look back at the smaller moments from the year. It might be a deeply personal achievement or milestone that might seem insignificant from the outside but was hugely important to you. It might be something you’re proud of, a challenge you faced or an obstacle overcome. It might be something only you know about. I like to look back over photos or journal entries and use this time as an opportunity to take stock of my achievements. I’m terrible at dwelling on the things not done, but this activity almost always highlights those moments – no matter how wee – that I am grateful for.
At this point, others might tell you to think up your resolutions or a word of the year. I’ve never got on with resolutions or even trying to define my focus in a single word, so instead I try to set some intentions. I think about the kind of gentle changes I might want to make and take stock of how I could make that happen. Or I just think about how I would like the next few months to look like and feel like. Always with kindness, and never just for the sake of it. May you savour Romjul and have a Happy New Year when it comes.