What is the nature of the Christmas season in our lives?

Peter Dowdall reflects on the nature of seasons, the circle of life, and the place of Christmas in our lives.

Every year the earth travels around the sun and where we are in relation to this giant star, determines what season we are in, and, I believe, where we as beings in our own lives.

The world is constantly evolving and so too are we, as we journey through life. The Christmas period is a hugely important time for all of us, as our year and our orbit comes to an end and we travel on the journey once more, hurtling into four more seasons with further ups and downs.

Christmas is all about family and this too, is constantly evolving. How quickly time moves on and while once you were the child in the security of your family home, waiting for that most special of mornings, on December 25, before you know it, you are the adult providing that security and love to your own offspring, creating more happiness and memories. The journey and evolution continues.

Nowhere are we closer to god or the universe, than in the garden. We plug into the energy of the soil and create life and get life back — in both senses.

Christmas is a polar moment. It’s the end of one gardening year and the start of the next, there is no gap, no stopping. Yes, we as gardeners can stop and take time out, of course, that is if we want to, but the garden itself doesn’t stop, the wonders continue every second of every day.

The great and I mean that literally, ‘great’ outdoors is really a fantastic living tapestry of life and the garden acts as a food larder for much wildlife — birds, hedgehogs, squirrels and more will all feed on produce from our garden plants during this winter.

Skimmias, pyracantha, sorbus, myrtus and malus will all provide berries for filling the stomachs of birds out in our gardens during this month and to winter’s end.

Pinus and other conifers will provide nuts and seeds for squirrels and others. Hedges, logpiles, and trees will all offer safe places of refuge for hibernating animals as they slow down and very sensibly go to sleep for the winter months.

We humans don’t hibernate, though there are many times I wish we did. Wouldn’t it be great just to take to the bed with full bellies for the dreary winter months with a pile of nuts beside us, rousing just to enjoy Christmas and then to slumber once more until the vernal equinox and springtime.

Alas we’re not programmed that way and persevere through the season we must, but I do truly feel that we are connected to the natural world to such a degree that we also slow down during the winter months and take to the indoors.

A lot of this is because of the weather, of course, but it’s not all that, I actually enjoy working in the rain, provided I have the correct clothing. No, I think it’s a more innate pull indoors.

So, when spring does arrive with its much anticipated and longed-for flurry of flowers and new growth, we feel the pull of the outdoors, a little switch going off inside each one of us as the cabin fever kicks in, and we venture out at every opportunity.

Successful gardening follows the phases of the moon. Vegetables that produce their harvest above the ground should be planted during a waxing moon and those that produce below the ground should be sown during a waning moon.

The moon is relevant in the garden in many more ways too, controlling moisture levels in the soil, depending on its position relative to earth.

All gardening can be timed in relation to the phases of the moon and I think that Christmas defines winter in the garden, what happens up to it is very much in tune with the ending of a year and everything from the day after, is focussed on the oncoming new year and new spring.

So as we clean off the lawnmower, finish mulching the beds, prune the fruit trees, clean the paths, begin to put away the tools for the end of the year, and get ready to lock the shed once more, it brings to mind those that are no longer with us, and those that are with us for their first Christmas.

Enjoy those that are, and enjoy the break, remembering that very soon the shed will need to be opened again, the tools dusted down, and new seeds sown for the next growing season. And so it goes on once more.

Happy Christmas to all and don’t forget to take some time for yourself this year.


Helen O’Callaghan hears about awards for global changeGOAL Changemakers Award: Primary schools asked for views

More From The Irish Examiner