After the hijinks's of Saturnalia, the deep resonance of Winter Solstice and the richness of Christmas we are shocked by the starkness and reality of the sensibility of January. The winter holidays are built up to a crescendo from Samhain (and sometimes even more months before) but come to a crashing halt on December 26th. This is a personal pet peeve, because the traditional Christmastide extends from December 25th to the Epiphany on January 6th: there are 12 days of celebration, not just one.
The decorations don't need to come down before New Year's Day. The period when Christmastide occurs begins on December 25th with the birth of Jesus the Christ and continues until the arrival of the Magi on the Epiphany( called " Three Kings Day" in some places) on January 6th. That is according to Western Christian tradition which holds to the Gregorian calendar; if you can't quite let go of Christmas, you can follow the Julian calendar like the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which put the dates off by approximately two weeks.
But no matter what you do, the greens and the very last of the Winter holiday decorations must be gone by Candlemas on February 2nd, or you invite bad luck into your home. The 2nd of February is also Imbolc in the Celtic Pagan tradition, which falls concurrently with the Feast of Brigid of Ireland various spellings Brigid, Bridget, Bridgit, Bríd and Bride). It is the agrarian Springtime, when the ewes are birthing lambs.
However, among all these days of rich mythology and folklore, there are days which are bitter cold, when the frost is thick on the window and the bare branches of trees chatter in the wind. These are the days of January, an emotional hangover from the intoxication of Christmas. They are the days when I feel Nature most keenly, when her bones are not only showing, but have cracked from exposure and been gnawed upon. January is an in-your-face kind of month which is a paradox.
Consequentially, I find this a bit amusing, because, after all, it is name after Janus, the Roman god with two faces in opposite directions. At the threshold of the New Year, Janus guards the door by looking back toward the old and ahead at the new.
January days come in two varieties where I lived on the east Coast: Cold,barren and grey, or cold, spare and sunny. It is usually a mixture of both, and you never know quite which you'll get depending on atmospheric conditions. Occasionally Mother Nature throws in a ringer and there is a day or two of short-sleeved weather, but before you get too comfortable with that, she corrects any misconceptions about January by unleashing the fiercest of arctic blasts- just to remind you what time of year it really is.
January is one of my favorite months because of we've thrown off the tiredness of a worn-out year, and we hope for something better. There is a lightness in our insight, the excitement of something new coming to fruition. January is for beginning again, for starting over. It is a second chance to get some things right we failed at in the past. One of my currently favorite songs is Pink's "Try" because of the chorus:
"Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame someone's bound to get burned
But just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die
You've gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try..."*
And that, Gentle People, is life...
*Words and music written by Pink, EMI Music Publishing,20012