Listen up – I’m starting a new feature here on the blog!
The Month in Focus will be a four-weekly post that concentrates on each month as it passes by, giving you all a better insight into what’s happening out there in the big wide world on a seasonal basis. I’m going to get you adventuring, eating seasonally and learning a useful fact or two whilst you’re at it, whilst all the time enjoying the best of what the month has to offer!
So without further ado, let’s get stuck right in.
January. What on earth is there to look forward to in January?
It’s a month sandwiched in between Christmas and Valentines Day, which means that the shops suffer an identity crisis throughout the entirety of this month’s achingly long 31 days, persistently trying to sell you reduced Christmas gifts as well as teddy bears adorned with vom-worthy statements like “I heart you snugglebunch”.
In January we get up in the dark and come home in the dark, and for those of us locked in offices for eight hours a day we rarely get even so much as a glimpse of sun. The temperatures aren’t even properly cold and crisp, they’re just, well, miserable, and ladies, you can bind up your hair with the strength of Hercules but I guarantee you it’s going to be a fluffy mess by the time you get to work. January is the month of wind and rain.
So I repeat, what on earth is there to look forward to in January?
These crunchy orange bad boys are at their absolute best during the first month of the year. Roast them, slice them, dunk them, blend them, fry them, I don’t care, you just need to enjoy this magic vegetable when it’s at it’s most flavoursome and fresh. It’s also the perfect time of year to finally face your fears and have a go and drinking carrot juice. If not now, then when?
They’ve been making their way back to us in little gangs throughout November and December, but January is one of the best times of the year to spot the bohemian waxwing. Winter visitors from Scandinavia, these brightly coloured and undeniably groovy-looking birds flock to the UK and other, slightly warmer parts of Europe to pillage our berry supplies, unintentionally offend our “stay at home” birds and leave almost as soon as they’ve arrived. Look out for them moving further inland as January progresses.
Mummers plays are a particularly old tradition found across the UK and Ireland, dating back at least to the Middle Ages, if not earlier. These plays are usually linked with the changes of the seasons, but a great deal of them take place during the month of January.
Free to watch and usually performed in open public areas, the mummers (or actors, also known as guisers or soulers) dress up in elaborate handmade costumes created from strips of rag and perform stories of life, death and resurrection. Despite these seemingly dark themes, mummers plays are usually quite comedic and always enchanting and unusual to watch.
Often thought to be the first flower of the year, and one of only a handful that blooms in the adversity of winter, snowdrops are one of the earliest signs that spring isn’t as far away as you’d think. Try taking a frosty walk through the woods and you might be surprised to spot a small pocket of delicate white blooms! These flowers are more likely to pop their heads out towards the end of January, and there are plenty of places you can visit to see great carpets of them.
Who is Janus? Only the chap who lends his name to the first month of the year! This Roman fella is the god of beginnings and transitions, particularly fitting for January. Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict and is often depicted as having two faces, looking backwards to the past and forwards to the future.
It’s important to consider the month of January as a gateway, allowing you to begin afresh and make New Year’s resolutions, but also reflect on the year that’s passed and how you can use what you’ve learnt in the last twelve months to progress in the year ahead.
In Finland, the month of January is known as tammikuu, a beautiful word that translates as “oak moon”. As you’ll know if you read my Celtic Tree Astrology post from December, the oak tree is the heart of the forest and often revered for being the grandest of trees. The Finns show their love for it by choosing the image of a solitary oak tree in a snowy landscape as one of the most famous Finnish symbols of winter.
So tell me, what have I missed off the list? What are your favourite things about the month of January? Is there a seasonal food, event, or tradition that you observe that I don’t know about? And what about February? Obviously I’m already beginning to think about what to include in next month’s post and I’d love to hear your ideas!