Winter. The name itself is magical, a word of power, strong syllables that snap like frozen twigs as we speak them. Though Yule is some days away, according to the Celtic calendar we entered the powerful season of Winter at Samhain's turning.

 

            What does it mean to you, this season of cold darkness? What thoughts and fears come to the fore? What memories? Regardless of what tradition you were raised in, the dark time of the year has always been one of celebration. Even if you didn't celebrate, you hold memories of a celebratory atmosphere. You carry memories of winter days, cold and snowy if you live in a place like I do, far less hostile if you live in the tropics.

 

            Memory is a powerful tool, childhood memories doubly so. With it we are connected to our past, a past that helped form who we have become. Without our past we would not be. The memories of childhood hold elements so precious that the loss of them should be mourned when we become adults: Wonder. Hope. Belief. Pure joy.

 

            As adults we still have the capacity to experience joy, to behold the wonder that is a pale yellow sunrise on a frozen winter's morning. We have hopes and we believe in what we know to be true or vital. But the belief in the Mother of All or the Horned God is not the same as a child's belief in Santa Claus. Belief in the gods is a result of prayer and soulful experience. Belief in Santa, well that's based on the wonder and joy that is an inborn part of every child's soul.

 

            Hope is a thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson told us, and she was correct. Hope is a fragile, delicate creature, one only children know how to hold with the right amount of care. We adults grasp at hope too quickly, we hold it too hard, and when we aren't careful our hopes, and the dreams that accompany them shatter at our feet. It is almost as though through the loss of our childhood innocence we lose the most essential part of ourselves.

 

            Every day I see my five year old son wake up and greet the day with exuberance. He begins talking as soon as his eyes open, telling me of his imaginary friends and what they are doing, telling me what he wants us to do, and then he leaps out of bed and patters into the kitchen to tell his father a story. My teenagers have already begun to lose that same bright enthusiasm. At seventeen and fifteen they themselves are nearly adults, and while they still have crazy dreams and goofball antics, those child-like moments are broken up by college planning, homework and theatre rehearsals. The magic isn't fully gone yet. I am reminded of this when all three children don aprons at the seventeen year old's request and bake cookies while dancing around to Lady Gaga.

 

            My older children regale their younger brother with stories of being woken up in the wee hours of morning to go sledding during a midnight snowfall while the rest of our neighbors slept all unknowing. Pancake dinners and after school tea times rank high on the older children's lists of favorite memories, as do walks along the canal path when we found the halved remains of robins' eggs, blue as winter shadows. These experiences have shaped who they are, quirky, curious, loving nature and always willing to drop everything and sit at the table with a cup of tea and an hour of conversation. This is who they are, and they will bring this to their children's lives, forming a foundation of memories for their family to grow on.

 

            For myself, the week following Yule isn't complete without sitting down with my battered, much-read copies of L.M. Montgomery's 'Anne' series, because the first time I visited Avonlea was during a school vacation many years ago. I remember the coziness of my room, curled into a beanbag chair under my window, reading about a wild-hearted redhead's antics while catching glimpses of falling snow. I remember the contented feelings of comfort and safety, not fully appreciated then, but recognized once I had my own children.

 

            If this time of year has become a flurry of activity for you and your family, try to find a moment to do nothing but make a memory. Read a winter-themed story to your child or yourself, make gingerbread cookies in the shape of stars, or make Yule decorations with your family. Have a Sunday afternoon tea time. Sneak out in the middle of the night and build a snow dragon for your children to find when they wake up, like my father did one night when I was ten. Recall the things that you loved about winter when you were a child and give yourself the gift of childhood enchantment once again. And if you have children, or know some that could use a little winter magic in their lives, share with them.

 

            My family and I wish you all joy, wonder, hope, happiness and enchantment this Winter season. Blessed Yule to you all.