In these last few lamentably short days before the solstice, I always think of Jill Barklem’s jolly little mice and their midwinter celebration. As we have come to expect from the respectable denizens of Brambly Hedge, they do it in fine style: with caroling and feasting and a procession of the midwinter log. The whole community shares in cheery entertainment, with Primrose and Wilfred reciting the most splendid poem:

When the days are the shortest, the nights are the coldest,

The frost is the sharpest, the year is the oldest,

The sun is the weakest, the wind is the hardest,

The snow is the deepest, the skies are the darkest,

Then polish your whiskers and tidy your nest,

And dress in your richest and finest and best…

For winter has brought you the worst it can bring,

And now it will give you the promise of SPRING!

We have our own celebration tonight, as my school-age children have been busy preparing the annual Christmas program with their classmates. It is always an evening of music, poetry, and drama; held at the local village hall – with hardwood floors and the pastor at the piano – it puts me in mind of an early American variety show, in the best sense.

At school they have been practicing, painting, memorizing and rehearsing for weeks in order to share with the community a theatric representation of Christ’s birth. I always tell my dear ones, as I’m braiding hair and straightening ties, that they get to be apostles for the night.

The children are justly proud of their accomplishments, and it never ceases to amaze me how much their minds can retain. I think that, as the mice of Brambly Hedge know well, there is a need for such doings in our society. We need to come together and share the goodness that has stretched our hearts and minds: a song, a poem, a play. We need to create, and see what others have created. We need to share the good news of Christ with joy.

Just ahead lies Christmas; a celebration so great that it takes twelve days. If you have never toasted the Twelve Days of Christmas, try it this year. One day when everyone is at home and getting antsy, make some cocoa and act out A Christmas Carol. Sing carols together, and recite Saint Luke’s account of the Nativity. Put on a puppet show or play charades. Children aren’t the only ones who learn this way; everyone can benefit from making some gift for the Child in the Manger.

Merry Midwinter!