December and January are contrasting bookends

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Patsy Pridgen


By Patsy Pridgen
Telegram Columnist

Sunday, January 7, 2018

December and January are so different in spirit. These two months marking the end of one calendar and the beginning of the next are as distinct as the years they end and usher in.

December is all about fun. We have vacation, decorations, parties, presents, and continuous Christmas music. Far-flung families get together and celebrate. We eat food we don’t normally indulge in: cheese balls, fruit cakes, chocolate-covered nuts, and sugar cookies cut out in yuletide shapes. We go to Christmas plays and concerts and movies.

December is about excess. We drink eggnog, ignoring the 300-plus calories per cup. We decide to put up that extra string of lights, another Christmas tree, sand candles marking the driveway. The children want expensive electronics, and we buy them. Parties are held on week nights, and off we go. We stay up late wrapping gifts, baking, and cleaning for out-of-town guests or the celebration we’re planning.

December is full-steam ahead. Once Thanksgiving passes, we rush to the Christmas tree lot before the supply gets picked over. We hit the mall and outlet stores and shop online, looking for the perfect gifts. We search for seasonal baking supplies before they’re sold out at the grocery store. There is so much to do, and so little time in which to do it.

Suddenly it’s New Year’s Day, and the party is over. December’s engine, which ran in high gear, is now in neutral. It’s January. We may half-heartedly eat the traditional New Year’s fare of hog jowl and black-eyed peas and make a few resolutions. Those of us who teach have to go back to school the next day, knowing the next significant vacation is spring break, months away.

January is a return to reality. The holiday outdoor lights, which made December so festive, are dark. If we haven’t already done so, it’s time to take down the Christmas tree and pack away the decorations. The house, which has been filled with Christmas knickknacks for the past month, now looks bare and plain. Gone are the greenery on the mantel, Nutcrackers marching down the stair steps, and holiday wreaths on the doors.

January is about restraint. We’ve eaten too much for the past thirty days, and the scales show it. It’s time for simple fare—no more recipes calling for sour cream and butter. Lavish desserts give way to simple fruit salad. After all, we need to be able to fit into those new clothes we got for Christmas. There are Christmas bills to pay and schoolwork to do. The parties and presents are past. It’s the month to recover from revelry.

January is quiet; in fact, we may think it a dull and dreary time. After the siren celebrations of December, the simplicity of a month marked with only two events—New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday—stands in stark contrast.

But January is peaceful. It’s time to sit by the fire and watch the flames, thinking of the hectic month gone by and the tranquil month unfolding.