What do you do to brighten the short days and long nights?

What do you do to brighten the short days and long nights?

We’re in the dark days of the year, in the literal sense. The lights have to go on while I’m still working and the walk home after school happens in the darkness and the artificial light. In truth, I like winter—the weather and in a lot of ways the darkness create a sense of coziness. Snow falling through the glow of streetlights make me very happy (when it snows at all these days). It’s the season of the only holidays I celebrate with any level of commitment. It’s not hard to understand, though, why we have holidays celebrating light and life and the lifting of darkness in this time of year.

Two years ago, in the added darkness and isolation of the pre-vaccination pandemic (a state of being that persists for too many disabled and immunocompromised people), looking at a Christmas without most of the people who usually make it lovely, I went looking for ways to create little bright spots. 

Here’s what I came up with. I’m curious what you might have done under similar circumstances.

Advent calendars offer just a little something to look forward to each day, and some days that’s very welcome. And there are so many choices! I had thought of them from my childhood as always about candy (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but you can get advent calendars with jam or hot chocolate or beauty products or tea or just about any kind of liquor or Star Wars LEGO or polished minerals and gems. You can get a beautiful refillable advent calendar and get creative.

I personally wouldn’t recommend the kind of holiday light display where you essentially pay to get into a traffic jam, but we’ve made a new tradition of going to the kind of light displays where you park and get out and walk through some woods, or a zoo, or a garden filled with lights. At a time of year when the hours you’re more likely to do outdoor things—the sunlit hours—shrink, it’s good to have a reason to go outside and walk around in a twinkling, colorful darkness.

We are not a crafty or putting-effort-into-decorating family beyond a Christmas tree, but there are things you can do that don’t take work. A few years ago we were gifted a colored paper lantern. In winter it’s now a standby, a little spot of non-Christmassy colored light. And—heads up, this one is not cheap—Christmas gift by Christmas gift, I have started amassing a small forest of Simon Pearce glass trees. Through the winter season, from right after Thanksgiving until Feb. 2, they sit on our table just … being beautiful. Sometimes I go on the website and look at the collection of them that costs literally $8,075 and I sigh a little, but it’s better to get them one at a time and have each one feel like its own little special thing, right?

Finally, I have declared that eggnog season also runs from Thanksgiving until Feb. 2, because that’s the kind of thing you can decide when you’re a grown-up.

So, how about you? Do you have traditions, related to a particular holiday or not, that brighten the longer nights?

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