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December a Time for Reflection

Updated on August 4, 2015

A winter scene


Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

December is a good time to reflect on the passing year. During the long nights of December, when a comfortable fireside chair holds a distinct advantage over the elements of the great outdoors. A look back through the pages of my diaries in search of notes alluding to bluebell glades and the skylark's melodious song, helps me dispel some of winter's weariness.

I always keep notes of the weather in the diaries I keep in order to see if there are trends with the weather and its affect on wildlife. Take the summer of 1998, the dominant feature was the rainfall which, for the most part, endured for much of the year, in north west England. We tend to think the unusual weather is due to global warming  with some scientific justification. However, unseasonable weather was not such a rarity in the past, as I discovered recently, when I inadvertently stumbled across some archaic references to the weather. 

In 1762, Gilbert White, the famous naturalist, { famed for his book " The Natural History of Selbourne} recorded that----" We have not a had a cup full of rain these six weeks. No corn has been reaped, never a blade of grass, the leaves are yellow and falling as in October-it is July."  

In 1783 he wrote of another extreme------ " This summer was an amazing and portentuous one , full of horrible phenomena. On June 5th the parsonage was struck by vast drops of rain which were succeeded by hail and convex pieces of ice which measured three inches in girth! Hail broke all my north windows and all my garden lights and hard glasses and many of my neighbours windows."  

It would seem that the weather was as unpredictable then as it is now. In a letter he wrote in 1775, Horace Walpole states--" The date is is June 18th. We have had an extraordinary drought, no grass, no leaves , no flowers, However, at about 4pm arrived such a flood that we could not see out of the windows, the whole lawn was a lake, you never saw such desolation. All which seems to rebuke the famous quote from Virgil, which began  " lucky is the man that lives in the quiet countryside" 

For the naturalist the adverse weather conditions can also work in his favour. For instance September of 2000 saw bird enthusiasts  enthralled when the rare {in the U.K.} Honey buzzard was seen over the county of Lancashire in record numbers,apparently blown off course over the north sea, by the prevailing strong easterly winds, as they migrated south from Scandinavia. At least the weather pleased somebody!

Holly and Christmas

Holly has long bee associated with Christmas.
Holly has long bee associated with Christmas.

Christmas Is Coming----

As we enter the Christmas period it is appropriate to mention nature's gifts to the proceedings.For instance, holly has long been part of Christmas decorations, ranging from being the main component of wreaths, to a simple sprig, the glossy green leaves contrasting with the bright red berries. There is a great deal of folklore attached to holly and many superstitions linger to this day. many people believe that bad luck would befall should a sprig of holly be burned after Christmas. In the past it was widely accepted that if a whole holly { or hollin} as it was known to be cut down, a witch would take its place. { see the best of British-Trees part one} . Ivy was once as popular as holly in by gone was hung on door beams and over fire places in medieval times to protect the occupants from house goblins who were thought to be present and at their most mischievous at Christmas.

Long before that, in ancient Greece and later the Roman Empire, ivy was worn in the same way arm bands are worn today, it was used to decorate shields. Wreaths of ivy were worn as crowns, by people who believed, that these would prevent hair loss. The word ivy comes from the Germanic word " ifig", meaning bitter and refers to the berries, that ripen during December and January.

A bird closely associated with Christmas cards is the robin. This pretty bird {which becomes very tame an adored in the U.K.} adorns as many Christmas cards as Santa himself. Its association with cards dates back to the time that postmen wore tunics and were nicknamed robins after the birds red breast. The birds name derives from robert, an old name for a small bird. A bird as distinctive as the robin could not hope to escape folklore and legends, and a favourite of mine is a biblical story explaining how the bird acquired its red breast. While Jesus was on the cross, it was the robin that tried to pull the thorns from the crown to ease his suffering, getting blood splashed on his chest as a result. We can help the birds own suffering along with our other feathered friends , by keeping bird tables well stocked during the winter. 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all fellow Hubbers a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year....

The Robin in December



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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Thank you, hubs are about sharing knowledge and I am so glad you enjoyed it.

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      I didn't know the story behind the robin in Christmas cards, now I can share my new knowledge with others. I felt warmth as I read your hub- I felt a touch of the past, and was awed by the beauty of the Robin photo you shared. I love the snow, and the colors of the bird.

      Enjoyed reading your hub and Merry Christmas to you!