Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is usually on the 21st December but I do believe that this year it's the 22nd December. Its the shortest day of the year and is celebrated because soon the light and warmth will return.  If you have ever wondered why we decorate for Christmas the way we do, well it dates back to our Celtic, Nordic, Pagan roots and heres some history behind the things we recognise. 

The tradition of bringing evergreens inside are as a 'symbol of life' through winter, a period of terrible hardship for your average Celt.
The wreath, yule log, holly and mistletoe decorated the houses of our ancestors during the winter solstice and these traditions run across the whole of northern Europe. 

the colour in the background is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint - Provence.
You can learn to make your own wreath at florist workshops all through December and when it starts to look a bit droopy, just pull some bits out and add some fresh. Heres one I made with things I found in the garden, primarily rosemary and bits off the pine tree. The dried oranges were bought from my local garden centre (Waddesdon Plants). I don't hang mine on the front door because then I don't get to see it very much. Instead I put it somewhere in the lounge.

It seems that the wreath dates back to Roman times, when winners were crowned with a laurel wreath. They would hang it on the front door to show their victory in ... whatever it was they were doing. It went on to become another symbol of fighting through the winter.

The scarf in the background is from Folkski.
The Yule log is not just a cake you know ! It was traditionally something a family would chop down and bring inside on the winter solstice, it then was doused with cider or ale, sprinkled with flour and burnt. It should then smoulder for 12 days and was the highlight of the solstice festival.  I shall not be dousing mine with my precious home made cider, but in true Blue Peter fashion, heres one I made earlier.  I got hubby to drill me three holes and voila, tied on a few garden bits, a homemade candle holder.

Paints used here are by Annie Sloan - Provence in the background and on the table its Aubusson with a stencil of white and red. The candelabra and hanging came from charity shops in Sweden.

So I'm off to Sweden this week for a photo shoot and heres some traditional Swedish Advent lights I bought on previous trips in junk shops for a few pounds. The advent lights are displayed in the the windows of every Swedish home, primarily its thought because its so dark there during winter that it would light the streets for passers by.  It has no religious significance and the candleabra come in various sizes from 3 to 7 candles, always an odd number but just for aesthetic reasons. The electric advent light came to Sweden from Germany in the 1930s and the man behind H&M was the first to import them. 


Other traditions regarding holiday decorations are that bringing inside some mistletoe, holly or ivy would invite Natures Sprites in the home. I like this idea. Holly kept by the front door all year invites good fortune.

I love to make an event out of tree shopping and its all made possible by the wonderful Ingrid at Claydon Christmas Tree Farm.
They are growing their own trees which will be ready in 2015 but in the meantime they bring trees from Wales up to us in Buckinghamshire and they are truly great quality.

But I haven't told you yet the main reason why I go there, its because (ssshhhh now don't tell anybody) Santa leaves his Reindeer there to be looked after by Ingrid. Here is Tatiana from Folkski with Sophia.


A real life Reindeer can be a formidable creature to meet you know. Poor little Sophia had to hide inside her mums Babushka scarf. The Reindeer are so well behaved but those antlers are huge.

I've been decorating the house to fit with the winter season and found some things to paint. This wooden carved 'thing' was found in a charity shop so I painted it up with Annie Sloan chalk paints and stencilled with my own hand cut stencils. The colours used are Graphite, Emperors Silk, Antibes Green, Greek blue and old White.


I made the little felt Dala horses by doing a mini version of the one in Mollie Makes issue 32. The wall behind is my chimney breast which is now Aubusson blue. 

So as its time to climb into the loft and find where the hell we put the decorations last year, I wish you all happy hunting and will catch up on my return from Sweden.


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