Sights and Sounds of Yesteryear, Winter-style

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Patent image for the Bubble Light. Image: Public Domain
Patent image for the Bubble Light. Image: Public Domain

The winter season is full of traditions, many of which go back hundreds of years or more and are often from other countries. Trees, poems, decorations, songs, lights, sports, music, and food all contribute to the festivity of the season. Here are a few things from yesteryear, including a couple of wintry poems, that will help get us in the mood.

Bubble lights are a mid-century alternative to today’s usual small lights. They may have been popular with your parents (or grandparents). Ask them!

Canadian hockey in Withrow Park, 1923. Image: Public Domain
Canadian hockey in Withrow Park, 1923. Image: Public Domain

Hockey is an extremely common sport in the northern latitudes. And though I’m not a sports person, I will happily admit that going to see a hockey game in person is quite a rollicking good time.

Christmas Pyramid by Wikipedia user Tamorlan, CC BY-SA 2.5
Christmas Pyramid by Wikipedia user Tamorlan, CC BY-SA 2.5.

German Christmas pyramids (or Weihnachtspyramide) are a tradition that has spread to the United States in some families. Light the candles and watch the propellers spin, which also spins the people and other characters.

 

Winter
by Walter De La Mare
(Public Domain)

And the robin flew
Into the air, the air,
The white mist through;
And small and rare
The night-frost fell
Into the calm and misty dell.

And the dusk gathered low,
And the silver moon and stars
On the frozen snow
Drew taper bars,
Kindled winking fires
In the hooded briers.

And the sprawling Bear
Growled deep in the sky;
And Orion’s hair
Streamed sparkling by:
But the North sighed low,
“Snow, snow, more snow!”

 

Some of the many different types of snowflakes. Image: Public Domain
Some of the many different types of snowflakes. Plenty more to be seen here. Image: Public Domain

Snowflakes. Yeah, these you can’t buy. You just wait until it’s snowing, and go outside and enjoy them. Where I live, that only happens a few times per year, but when I was a kid, studying snowflake patterns was almost a sport.

German Flower stamp from Flickr user Vintageprintable1, CC BY-SA 2.0
German Flower stamp from Flickr user Vintageprintable1, CC BY-SA 2.0

Poinsettias are pretty popular in winter and holiday plant and flower displays because they are red and green, and bring a lot of color to the room during a time of year that’s historically a bit drab. Great for a December wedding, too.

 

Woods in Winter
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(Public Domain)

When winter winds are piercing chill,
And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
That overbrows the lonely vale.

O’er the bare upland, and away
Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
And gladden these deep solitudes.

Where, twisted round the barren oak,
The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
The crystal icicle is hung.

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
Pour out the river’s gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater’s iron rings,
And voices fill the woodland side.

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
And the song ceased not with the day!

But still wild music is abroad,
Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.

Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
I listen, and it cheers me long.

 

David Teniers, Twelfth Night. Image: Public Domain
David Teniers, Twelfth Night. Image: Public Domain

Twelfth Night is an observance that comes after the traditional winter holidays, in early January. Traditionally a Christian holiday, this painting shows that some people prefer to observe it in other ways. It’s also a play by Shakespeare!

MerryOldSanta, 1881 illustration by Thomas Nast. Image: Public Domain
MerryOldSanta, 1881 illustration by Thomas Nast. Image: Public Domain

If you celebrate Christmas, Santa can be great fun, whether or not you teach your kids that he is real. Regardless, an old jolly guy with a big, white beard who brings you presents is a happy thought.

An ice skate! Image: Public Domain
An ice skate! Image: Public Domain

What are your favorite parts of the coldest season of the year? Mine are slippers, hot tea, baked goods, family get-togethers, singing, warm coats, and the reminders that we’re all in this thing called life together.

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