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Yule Slow Living Tips
Slow decorating, solstice celebrating and other seasonal rituals for the month ahead.
I don’t know about you, but it feels like time is slipping through my fingers at the moment. As the year goes on, time seems to go faster and faster. My mind is still firmly in Autumn and yet suddenly it’s the last Sunday of November - the first of Advent - and time for my newsletter and to start getting my head around Christmas, looming rapidly on the horizon. So, this newsletter is as much a reminder to myself as it is to help anyone else who needs a wee nudge to slow down. It’s okay if you haven’t got the tree up (even if it feels like all of Instagram decorated this weekend). It’s okay if you haven’t done any Christmas shopping. It’s okay if you don't know where the year has gone either. Here are some things I’ll be doing over the next month to try and slow down, simplify and embrace the season we’re in.
Slow Decorating (and Getting Outside)
It can be oh so tempting to stay indoors, especially when the weather is dreich like it has been here all too often over the last few weeks. However, I never fail to feel better after a wee walk - even just around the block - to clear my head. At this time of year I often make this dual purpose: slowly gathering foliage, twigs, berries and seed heads to begin the process of gradual decorating over the coming weeks. It gives me a mindful focus when out for a walk, rather than being tempted to rush home or scroll my phone. I much prefer this slow approach to seasonal decor and developing things organically. Bringing in some branches of larch, laden with lichen. The fragrant stems of eucalyptus from a favourite local florist. An extra string of fairy lights. A bowl of quinces ripening on the sideboard with the promise of mincemeat to be made. Chestnuts in a hand-painted bowl ready for roasting. We will source our local tree soon, but in our house growing up it didn't go up until the week before Christmas so I’ll be holding off a wee while - the epitome of delayed gratification.
Celebrate the Winter Solstice
The days are getting shorter and shorter and here in Edinburgh it starts getting dark at around 3.30 in the afternoon at this time of year. I’m definitely missing the light; being in the new flat during daylight this weekend felt so novel. I savoured the sun streaming into our south facing kitchen, following it around like a contented cat. In a few short weeks we will reach the shortest day - the Winter Solstice, celebrated as Yule by our Celtic ancestors. This was a time of fire and feasting, marking the days drawing out once again: I’ll be taking my cues from the Celts and embracing fire in the form of copious candles and lighting the wood burning stove, and cooking up seasonal food in the kitchen - lots of hearty soups, stews and bakes. I hope when the Solstice arrives you can take time for a wee pause to mark the turning of the year and the coming of the light again.
One of my favourite seasonal rituals in the run-up to the festive season is reading. It goes back all the way to my childhood when on the 1st December we would excitedly unpack the Christmas book box, brought down from the attic, where all the festive children’s books lived. They were all the more precious for the year-long wait. It’s a joy I still recreate for myself by dipping into favourite festive reads: Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles never fails to get me into the Christmas spirit. I started re-reading it last week when I was feeling a little low, and got lost in his words, dreaming of German Christmas markets and festive baking. I’ll be revisiting Jeanette Winterson in the coming weeks as well; her Christmas short stories are a favourite of mine too.
Here in Edinburgh we are so spoilt by beautiful independent shops and eateries, and I’ll be putting together a gift guide very soon for subscribers with lots of favourites from here and further afield. I also think that gifting experiences is a wonderful thing to do, particularly if it’s something you can do together with the person you are gifting - a date in the calendar to look forward to in the new year and the rewarding feeling of learning a new skill. I recently wrote about Elliott’s Winter Series and I can’t recommend their seasonal workshops turned generous lunches enough! We also did a wheel throwing workshop with the talented Claire Henry over in Glasgow recently - more on that soon (and her Winter Shop went live tonight). In the weeks leading up to Christmas I’ll be making gifts in my kitchen as well, from edible treats to scented candles and more. It’s one of my non-negotiable seasonal rituals: the process of taking time and making something with love is one of the best gifts you can give in my book.
The thing I am most looking forward to this year is the slow days between Christmas and New Year. I mentioned in my recent flat update that we have a lot of painting to do. We’re not in a rush - wanting to get our colours right, to know the space and what will suit it, and to do a good job - but I am looking forward to carving out a few days in the calendar to solely dedicate to this purpose. But I’m also keen to do some crafting - something that I’ve neglected a little this year due to working on other projects. Not everyone has the privilege of this time, and I feel very lucky to be off (and thankful to those who are not to keep things going). If you do have some time off, I hope you can find time in these quieter Winter days to do what makes you happy: whether that’s curling up with Christmas reads, embracing a forgotten hobby or doing nothing at all. Enjoy every minute.
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From now on, I’ve decided to send my paid subscriber posts to that mailing list only - previously I had sent previews to everyone in case you fancied signing up, but I don’t want to bombard your inboxes! Instead, I’ll share a round-up of the posts in my monthly free newsletter so you can get a flavour of what’s been going on in the subscriber community. In case you missed it this month: