A Midwinter Feast

Day 204 of 365 Days Wild was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, also known as Midwinter or Yule. When possible I like to watch both sunrise and sunset on Midwinter’s Day but this year, unfortunately, the entire day was overcast and interspersed with rainshowers. I didn’t manage a single glimpse of the sun at all.

The winter solstice usually falls on the 21st or 22nd of December in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere it falls around the 20th or 21st of June. Whilst it is called ‘midwinter’ and in temperate regions has traditionally been seen as the middle of winter, nowadays the winter solstice is more often seen as the beginning of winter. The coldest, harshest days of the year tend to come in January and February. It has always been a significant time for cultures around the world throughout history. Neolithic sites such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland are both aligned to the winter solstice sun: Newgrange at sunrise and Stonehenge at sunset. Symbolically, it marks the death and rebirth of the sun and as such has been linked with the rebirth of sun gods in various cultures. From the solstice onwards days begin to lengthen again as the sun regains its strength.

Midwinter is a time for feasting. Historically, it was the time when cattle were slaughtered so they didn’t need to be fed during the winter months. This meant that it was the one time of year when fresh meat was easily available. The year’s wine and beer was also fermented and ready to be consumed. Nowadays such feasting celebrations in the UK tend to happen a few days later, at Christmas.

My Midwinter feast this year was instead one for the birds. I spent some time creating bird seed decorations to hang in the garden and around the meadow. Unfortunately, my first attempt didn’t really work. The gelatine that holds them together was still too liquid when I filled the cookie cutters with the bird seed mix so they crumbled when I tried to remove them from the moulds. I returned to mix to the bowl, rewarmed it, and tried again. The second lot turned out much better.

That’s all for today. Happy Solstice!

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