It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’, so sung Andy Williams in 1963. Even though he was referring to the Christmas season, I believe that this was too narrow. The same sentiment could be applied to the entire autumn and winter months.
Now that we are hurtling into autumn and winter, I thought I would write a piece on the many, many reasons why we are entering the most enchanted, beautiful and magical of all the seasons:
- The celebrations: What does summer have as a way of marking the season? Music festivals that end of looking like a scene from Ypres or the Somme, except with hipsters and more chance of catching dysentery. The kind of event where it can take you five hours just to leave the car park as you sit in a coach with other people who haven’t washed for four days and are now approaching a drink/drug induced come down of epic proportions.
In the space of a few short months you have harvest celebrations in parts of the UK then Halloween, Bonfire night, Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day, all in relatively quick succession. Although they may be all slightly tainted with crass consumerism and a tedious run in period, they are still the highlights of the calendar year for many of us and are perhaps the only time that we may get to see our extended family.
- The clear, cool air: Step outside on a bright winters morning. Take a nice deep breath. Can you feel the nice, cold and crisp air chill the inside of your nose and go into your lungs? You could be walking to your work in an endless urban conurbation, but if you close your eyes and have an overactive imagination you could be walking along an Alpine stream on a December day.
As an added bonus, is there anything prettier and more refreshing than a nice frosty morning. The grass is crunchy beneath your feet. You can see your breath in the air. Everyone has rosy red cheeks. Perfect.
- Going outside: It’s an autumnal and winter wonderland through late September to early April. The leaves turn brown and auburn, before gently and delicately floating to the ground. Rather than the plain old green that you have during the summer, you have a palette of amber, beige, cocoa, copper, russet and ochre. Even in death leafs serve a useful function and help to cover up the packets of Walkers crisps, cans of Monster energy drink and metallic tins of unfinished chicken chow mein. The autumn gives everything a more picturesque aspect and because you don’t have that horrible life-giving orb of light blinding you for most of the day, you can actually enjoy it.
The deep winter is just as beautiful as well. The trees may look skeletal, but there is a stark beauty to the landscape. Everything’s a bit more rugged and exposed. If you’re lucky enough to be caught in a snowfall, all the sounds of the world are dimmed to nothing and you’re left with the silent hum of nature.
Even if you do live in an ugly town or city. Who cares! It’s dark for most of the day anyway.
- Staying inside: Have you ever tried to read a book or play a computer game or do a crossword puzzle during the summer? I’m sure we all have a vague sense of shame about indulging in indoor activities while ‘the sun is splitting the stones’. When you were younger, your mum would shout or ask you politely to go outside. ‘But I’m making an Airfix model of a Supermarine Spitfire’ you would shout back. ‘I don’t want to go outside’. There’s no shame in staying indoors in winter. You can twitch the curtain, look outside at the grey overcast day and go back to your sedentary activity, without a care in the world.
- The contrast in temperatures: In the summer it’s always hot. You go outside; hot. You go inside and it’s still hot. Everywhere is bloody hot. But going from a brisk, blustery cold day into a lovely warm house makes you actually appreciate the heat more. What can beat the pleasure of going to a café for a hot drink during a frigid day? It’s the stuff that prose is made of. No poet could write something on how they went to get a frappuccino in July. You’re far more aware of the yin and yang of hot and cold in the winter.
- The winter makes you feel small and is a reminder of your mortality. This might come across as a bit grim but I believe that it’s important to feel humbled occasionally. It’s good for the human psyche. It stops us getting ahead of ourselves and serves as a reminder of our minuscule and insignificant place in the universe. Human achievements can serve well enough. Large mega structures and engineering marvels such as bridges and skyscrapers can often dwarf the individual.
However, monuments of nature serve this purpose far better. Just walk up a hill and you’ve already traversed something that physically outmatches any human achievement. I used to purposely walk down the shore on some of the windiest days of the year. You get buffeted about, can barely stand your ground but you feel so small and insignificant. The mere movement of air from low to high pressure is enough to blow you over, puny human. Deep winter itself has a similar effect. A reminder that no matter how thorough your preparations, winter will always come round again. At the risk of sounding pretentious, the seasons reflect aspects of human personality, the light and the dark. The good and the bad.
This is reflected in literature. It was a ‘bright cold day in April’ not a warm day in April. The cargo ship Demeter, carrying Count Dracula, didn’t collide with Whitby Harbour on a summertime zephyr. Ishmael stated that he put to sea whenever it was a ‘drizzly November’ in his soul. Would the obsessional and doomed romance of Heathcliff and Cathy be as evocative had it taken place in broad sunlit uplands, rather than the desolate and cold moors? The motto of House Stark isn’t ‘Summer is Coming’.
- Food: This is no brainier really. Name your favourite food. Go on. There’s a fair chance that it’s highly calorific, has a lot of fat and/or sugar and is something that is more associated with the autumn or winter: Stews, soups, creamed rice pudding, chocolate, custard, mashed potato, chips. The list is endless. Traditional takeaway foods take on a new lease of life in the autumn and winter as well. Who really enjoys a 12-inch pizza in mid-summer? It just seems more appropriate and filling during the colder months. Winter Drinks include: pumpkin spice lattes, chai lattes, and various varieties of hot chocolate and last but by no means least, tea. This is particularity important in the UK. I and my compatriots drink tea all year round, but for about three months of the year, I look in dismay at a steaming hot cup of tea staring at me first thing in the morning. It’s 22c outside, this just isn’t appropriate (I drink it anyway, cause I ain’t no quitter). In winter it becomes a magical beverage again, giving you warmth and comfort.
- The fashion: No more muffin tops, sock and sandals, boob tubes, tans, ray ban sunglasses, tight clothes, neon, flip-flops, fashion jewellery and tattoos of bull terriers or national flags. All banished, underneath glorious, and appropriately fitting winter clothes. In general, when in public, people should be as fully clothed as possible. The winter prevents people from showing off flesh by the sheer fact that’s it’s too cold to do so. Although this won’t stop some people from trying (I once witnessed a man walking about university in sandals, shorts and a T-shirt in one of coldest days of the year in 2006) However, they are usually ostracised and left to die in the cold, in a Darwinian struggle for survival.In general, people look smarter in the winter. Winter clothes seem better cut, have better from, usually because they’re manufactured from thicker material than their summer counterparts and hide most of us beneath layers of cotton, wool and nylon.
So there it is, a brief list of why autumn and winter are the best seasons of the year. Please feel free to disagree. I might not have time to get back to you, though. I’ll be too busy arranging my cable knit jumpers and thermals into order. And remember, winter is coming.