Every year, as soon as the weather starts to cool I begin to look forward to Christmas. To me, Christmas is one of the best parts of the year and I spend months building up the anticipation of that one magical day towards the end of the year when everything in the world should be perfect and we should all be snuggled up at home with our loved ones, keeping ourselves warm by the fire, whilst gorging on decadent feasts and alcohol, sat watching Christmas telly. All with smiles plastered onto our faces. (Alternatively, as was our Christmas tradition whilst living in Saudi, go spend the day at the beach with a bbq! It does feel a little strange but you can guarantee you’ll have the place entirely to yourself and you’ll be glowing in more ways than one by the end of the day!)
That said, the rest of winter is what I seem to forget about each year until it rolls round again and I forget how much I hate getting to work and it’s dark, getting home and it’s dark, not seeing daylight until a day off arrives and I can try and soak up my weeks supply of Vitamin D in the space of one day. The cold and the darkness seep into my bones and with every passing month I find it harder and harder to remain positive and keep my usual bright outlook shining through.
The fault of living in Saudi for 15 years where it is sunny and hot the entire year round, only getting one rainy day a year where the heavens would open and an almighty downpour would leave the streets swimming a couple feet under water for the course of a few days until the sun evaporated it all away again and normality resumed, us children saddened at the prospect of having to return to school.
A winter that was colder than 30 degrees C was difficult to get used to and for the first couple of years living back at home in the UK, leg warmers would get me through from September to April. But slowly I have reacclimatised myself and look forward to a great many things that winter has to offer. And reminding myself of these things helps to keep me smiling!
My Top Eleven Things I Love About Winter
I absolutely love Christmas Markets. I love the glow that radiates from the brightly lit stalls, the buzz of excitement and energy from all the other people exploring the winter fare. But what I love most about Christmas Markets is the excuse to tuck into hot meaty goods with a side of duck fat roast potatoes and a bag of crackling whilst sipping on warm spiced Glühwein. Or mulled cider..I’m not fussy when it comes to warm alcoholic beverages. I don’t need any excuse to tuck in but if I really needed one then keeping warm is all the excuse necessary. It certainly makes the cheeks glow and leaves a warmth in your stomach that emanates throughout the rest of your body leaving you thoroughly cosy and satisfied.
Oh winter layers how I love you! Any excuse for an oversized jumper to hide the vest, shirt and cardigan that lie underneath, all topped off with a delightfully cosy scarf and jacket. I love layers. They are my best friend. And gorgeous woollen dresses, tights and boots. Winter fashion is just brilliant. It also means that you don’t have to worry about any extra flab that may have accumulated due to number three on my list..which, let’s face it..may lead to an extra couple pounds! But who cares when you can hide it all away under fantastic woollen layers?? Summer is the season to worry, the season of baring our pasty winter skin back out in the world, not winter. Winter is layers, winter is cosy, winter is keeping warm!
Soup, Pie, Stew & Dumplings
Yes, yes, yes! To all three!! Never are these three dishes anywhere near as good throughout the year as they are in winter! Of course you can make your cold vichyssoise or white almond soups and make lighter pies with summer ingredients and puff pastry instead of lardy shortcrust but they’re just not the same. Not the same as a creamy leek and potato soup! They are foods that are meant to be rich and indulgent and at no other time of year can this be pulled off except for when it’s cold outside and your body is craving stodge. And under no circumstances do you have stew and dumplings unless it’s winter..it’s just unacceptable isn’t it? So get that hearty beef and ale stew in the oven, top with dumplings and enjoy with buttery mash!
In our busy lives it is always nice to take a day and do NOTHING. You know..One of those days where you wake up, drag your duvet downstairs to your sofa and you cuddle back up..occasionally getting up to add hot drinks and food into the equation and to change the Christmas movie. I can’t bring myself to do it at any other time of year..but somehow when it’s cold out the excuse to snuggle up in my blanket for the day seems acceptable. Right?? The only way this can possibly be topped is when you’ve got company! So grab your other half, your sister, your brother, your best friend, your dog..and take a lazy day. You know you deserve it!
Christmas Movie Season
There is something about Christmas telly that just leaves you feeling good. Gone are the summer Hollywood block busters with all the action and drama and in comes the feel good vibes, love and happy endings..à la Love Actually, The Holiday, The Christmas Carol, Home Alone, Jingle All The Way, The Muppets Christmas Carol..the list is endless, I think I will save my favourite winter movies for another post! But you get the idea. Films full of hope, family and love..and what more is Christmas about? This one goes hand in hand with number 4..so grab a couple of your favourite movies, your partner in crime, a cup of hot chocolate with a shot of Baileys or Kahlúa and park your butt on that sofa and burrow into your duvet! You will be completely relaxed and happy by the end of it!
Hot beverages go hand in hand with winter. There cannot be a winter without them. Especially the alcoholic variety! Mulled wine and mulled cider are just perfect if you are going to be outdoors, they warm you through like nothing else! That spiced wintery goodness. Hot chocolate has definitely got to be listed here too..the comfort and pleasure from a good hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows is just heaven. Especially when spiked with a shot of Kahlúa. Try it, you’ll love it! I’ve got to say, I even enjoy Irishing up my cuppa tea with a shot of whiskey. Why not? You can only do it for such a short period of the year!
Snow is still a novelty to me, and as such I get so excited the second I see it falling! The same way the annual rainfall back home in Saudi made us all gleeful. We don’t get all that much snowfall so it sure is exciting when it makes an appearance. There is something quite magical about seeing snowflakes fall and settle on the ground, leaving a stunning blanket of white winter wonderland. If only it could last. I’d more than happily skip the sheet of ice it leaves behind!! Grrr!
There’s nothing like heading home in the bitter cold, scarf wrapped up around your cheeks, fingers tingling at the bite of the wind and getting back to a fire. To be sat in front of the glowing flames, mesmerised, as the warmth permeates your layers and thaws you out. It is thoroughly satisfying. Just make sure not to sit too close or you’ll end up with the ends of your hair synged..trust me..I’ve learnt from experience!
Hot Weather Winter Escapes
This is by far the thing I love most about winter. The chance to escape it all and top my dose of Vitamin D up! Which, let’s face it, is fairly essential in maintaining a positive outlook. It gives me something to look forward to, to count the weeks down to and make it all a little more bearable. I always love travelling, but the chance to jet off somewhere and instantly have warmth and sunshine keeps me going in the dark cold winter months. Even if it is only for a weekend away. Luxury.
Crisp Sunny Days
Crisp, cold winter days accompanied by glorious clear skies and sunshine are absolutely stunning. I would take them any day of the week over a warm but rainy day. It’s lovely to be able to wrap up warm in all your layers and head out for a brisk walk in sunshine. It makes you almost forget that it’s the middle of winter and raises your hopes for hot sunny summer days. Any glimpse of sun makes me happy. What more reason do I need for this one on the list?
Every year, as has become tradition, we spend the evening with friends setting off fireworks and eating chili. The boys get excited weeks beforehand and buy tons of fireworks, each year trying to out do the last..and each other. Every year getting slightly more ridiculous. But much fun is had by all..and Sally provides an excellent spread of chili, hot dogs and pulled pork to keep our bellies satisfied. And of course a hot mulled drink! This is usually the kick off to the winter season and boy what a sight!
Those are my 11 favourite things about winter. Is there anything you think I’ve missed and feel should be on this list??