Posted by Michael Kelly, GIY Ireland in Features.

It has been a tough start to December with arctic conditions prevailing and the veggie patch (and everything else) blanketed in up to a foot of the white stuff. Still, the shortest day of the year is on the 21st of this month so if you’re a glass half-full kind of person you can take some solace from the fact that from then on the days are starting to get longer and it’s only a matter of time before the new GIY season is upon us. Just as the harvest brings with it both joy and a measure of pathos at the impending winter, the arrival of winter brings, strangely, a sense of hope that it will soon be spring.

Christmas is bearing down on us. Yikes!  (By the way, click here for a discussion on the best Christmas presents for the GIYers). The GIYer can and should find reason to celebrate at Christmas because of course the end of December has been a time of celebration for five millennia and perhaps even longer. In ancient Babylon, the feast of Isis (the Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25th. In ancient Rome, the winter holiday was called Saturnalia (Happy Saturnalia has a strange ring to it, don’t you think?) which honoured Saturn, the God of Agriculture.

The pagans of northern Europe celebrated their own winter solstice, known as Yule (from whence we get the word yule-tide) in honour of the pagan Sun God Mithras who appeared to their minds to be growing and maturing once the winter solstice had passed. The months of late summer and autumn were terrifying for early pagans because they believed that the days were growing shorter because their sun-god was slowly abandoning them. When they saw the length of the day increasing at the end of December, they celebrated with riotous drinking, gluttonous feasting and orgies of epic proportions—basically much like we do today. So regardless of your religious faith, come the end of December you have an ancient reason to celebrate.

December is a great month to take stock, to add up the year’s failures and successes and give yourself your GIY grade for the year. How did you fare? A-student? Could do better? I find that December is probably the only month of the year where I genuinely get some time away from the veggie patch and can re-engage with society somewhat (it’s over-rated I find!). We had a busy November in the veg patch and of course come January we will be back to the start of another season in the trenches—but for now there’s a gentle and much welcome pause punctuated by occasional trips to the veggie garden or to our shed to collect some fresh or stored crops. You could of course busy yourself with jobs in December if you wanted, but it just wouldn’t seem right to do so—my advice is to kick back and enjoy the break.

Happy Christmas!