Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh (pronunciation Ah-vleen fwee vosh-ah gheev) Happy New Year to you all, and thank you for supporting Aliisaacstoryteller last year! I hope 2018 will be good to you. I can’t believe we’re already two weeks… Read More
My tree does not have an angel on top. No, what it has is a rather plain, very slightly sparkly silver star. But it does have angels on it. Four of them. These smiley faces belong to the… Read More
I watch my children launch themselves gleefully at the pile of presents under the tree, but take no pleasure in their joy. My heart feels cold and hard as a stone, and the bitter taste of guilt catches and won’t wash away in the back of my throat.
Sarah is the oldest. Always the thoughtful one, she organises her younger sister to sort the parcels into three piles, one for each of them. It’s meagre pickings, I think dismally, but they don’t seem to notice. Caitlin normally resents Sarah’s bossiness, but on this occasion normal hostilities have been temporarily cast aside. Jojo, not even a year old, crawls happily through the chaos, more absorbed in the crunch and rustle of the bright paper than what it conceals.
My brave bold trio, who already in their short lives have seen a side of it no child should have to witness. I won’t have their childhood stolen away from them, I just won’t.
“I’ll take them,” I hear myself say, and suddenly, my heart is fluttering randomly like a butterfly in my chest. “I’ll keep them on.”
The two young sales assistants exchange snooty glances, rolling black-rimmed eyes at each other. One of them goes to get a bag for my old grey trainers, while the other processes my purchase at the till.
As I teeter out of the store on my new high heels, I hear the ring of their mocking laughter, and my spine stiffens.
I glance down at my feet. Four hundred euros of Swarovski encrusted soft silver leather now adorn each one, balanced on a perfectly crafted, needle-thin mirrored heel.
For out ancestors, winter mast have seemed like a near-death; the sun was distant and weak, unable to warm earth or air, unable to hold back the night; trees wept leaves like tears; plants melted into the earth, inert beneath frozen or sodden ground; birds flew away; animals hibernated or migrated. The only vivacious sign of life flourishing in the land whilst all else wasted, was the evergreens. No wonder they became a beacon of hope, a symbol of endurance and survival. No wonder people brought them into their homes as a reminder of better times.
You may not have been aware of it, but a few months ago, a mighty battle took place. It has been happening every year since time began. And though you didn’t know it, you will have felt the consequences; how slowly, slyly, the shadow of night encroached upon the day and stole its light; how the sun hurried across the sky as if it couldn’t bear to look; how Summer’s warmth faded from the air, sucking with it all life from the earth, and all that was green and vibrant with health shriveled and died. It was as if everything that was good in the world withdrew, leaving behind only grey skies and hardship, and an uncertain future.
The Oak King had fought his battle, and lost. Holly, the victorious conqueror, stalked the land while the days stumbled toward their darkest hour.
For the robin, no perch here.
Across the field
mournful cattle low.
Too cold, the dark end of the year.
Soft hues of Eire
earth-brown, grass-green, sky-blue,
overcome by stark monochrome.
For our ancestors, the festival of Mid-Winter was an essential period of respite from the harshness of winter. Winter was bleak, a time of hardship, and a struggle for survival. The return of summer’s warmth and plenty was not, for them, guaranteed.
But then something remarkable happened beneath that cruel, cold wing of seemingly eternal shade. The Winter Solstice was the turning point upon which their fortunes hinged. Light triumphed over darkness as the days lengthened and the nights grew shorter. The sun was growing stronger in the sky. It was a sign, a promise of better times to come. And that was something worth celebrating.