The days between Christmas and the New Year are magical in a way. The festive holidays are over and the anticipation of Christmas is giving way to the anticipation of twelve brand new months. We are filling our new planners with appointments and color a hopeful picture of what's to come. Wishes are being sent out into the wide universe and people are both full of optimism and worry of what lies ahead. The "unknown" has always challenged mankind. And in these few days every year, we look ahead into a new year, not knowing at all what is to come.
It is not surprising some of us feel a bit melancholy between the years. The questions we ask ourselves aren't always light. Who will live? Who might die in the year to come? Who will be madly in love and who will tragically fall out of it?
As I'm looking back on a year that has been so deeply emotional, yet passing by so fast, I am full of emotion. My father passed last April, changing our lives forever. In the summer we found out about this little boy growing inside of me, changing our lives forever. Shortly after, we found out about my husbands new career, changing our lives forever. The uncertainty of what is to come is making me feel restless and slightly nervous. 2016 has left me a bit breathless, and I feel the urge to freeze time. Make it slow down. However, with a new baby and a move ahead in the next months, I fear this is not going to happen. So I will have to find other ways to invite peace, positivity and mindfulness into my daily life.
As I'm writing this I am in my hometown in Bavaria, where the "Twelve days of Christmas", or "Rauhnaechte" as we call them, are deeply rooted in our folklore and tradition. In the nights between Christmas and the Epiphany, so they say, mystical things happen and the border between this life and the afterworld come closer together. The name "Rauhnaechte" comes from the old word for "wild" or "hairy" (like a beast), but is also related to the "Rauch" (smoke) from the inscent people burn to get rid of dark spirits and negative influences in these days (most commonly frankincense, sage, thyme, bay and juniper).
It is hard to say when people first treated these nights as something special, but documents about it go back to the 16th century. These twelve holy nights represent the New Year. It is believed, that what you dream in these nights will come true in the respective month (for example, the dream from the night of the 26th to the 27th represents February) . Also it is believed, that the weather in these night are foreshadowing the weather in the twelve months ahead.
Old folklore says that animals can speak to each other during this time and that they have conversations about who is going to die in the year ahead. Children born in this timeframe are said to have special powers and an unusual connection to the afterworld. To counteract the evil spirits and cold nights and to make room for the sun and warmer spring days, the tradition of the "Percht" was born. People still dress up today all over Bavaria, Austria and particularly the Alpine region in horrifying, hand carved wooden masks (these are elaborate and folk art indeed), pelts, and skins and run through the streets in the so called "Perchten runs" to drive out the devil and evil spirits. Nowadays, this is quite the spectacle and oftentimes resembles a big party more than anything, but has not lost it's ghoulishness and frightening atmosphere.
I understand this may all sound quite weird to you. As a lot of very old traditions and folklore it seems outdated at best, probably even completely silly.
However, I invite you to use these days to look deep within yourself and explore the feelings you may have about the New Year. Maybe use this magical time between years to take it slow, withdraw a bit from your usual world, practice mindfulness, or just have tea by the fire. Reflect on the old year and leave behind what was heavy. Meditate on your wishes for the time ahead and feel the quiet of these cold, odd days around you (at least, so they seem to me at times).
And who knows, maybe write down a dream or two that may come to you these nights and see if they are precursor of some sort.
I wish you well. I'm sending out love & light for the months ahead. Hopefully, the world will be a better place for all of us.