The oak trees huddle closer to Henwoodie as if seeking a bit of warmth from the candle glow spilling from the windows. Birds and deer stay close eagerly sniffing and scratching for birdseed and bread put out for them. Squirrels and blue jays scramble after peanuts scattered on the terrace and under the snow-ladened hemlocks. There’s a sense of magic and mystery in the air.
The Winter Solstice and Christmas are festive days here at Henwoodie. The pups and I will hike through the woods to gather pine boughs and evergreens to fill Henwoodie in preparation for the celebration of the holidays. Snow always adds a touch of magic to the house and gardens. The pups feel the excitement and anticipation as they bound tirelessly through the snowy fields pouncing after phantom voles and field mice.
Preparations always begin on 12 December. Over the next twelve days Henwoodie will be filled with the fragrant scent of balsam, bayberry, and mulling spices. Each day sees the house more and more transformed into a cozy, snug home for the holidays. Holly and wild berries fill vases and crocks adding a touch of Christmas cheer to every room in the house.
Life at Henwoodie is one filled with rituals and tradition. Year after year the rituals are followed faithfully and lovingly. Bayberry candles burn all night on the Winter Solstice, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve to ensure that prosperity and health come to all who live here and visit during the holidays. The scent of balsam fills the air and brings back memories of Christmases and Winter Solstices of the past. Nostalgia reigns during the holidays.
The final preparations and decorations will be put on the tree and brought into the house on Christmas Eve when John arrives. The anticipation of his arrival is as thrilling and happy as Christmas itself.
Evenings are spent playing card games, board games, and watching favorite old movies: Christmas in Connecticut. Miracle on 34th Street, The Homecoming, Prancer, A Christmas Carol, Christmas Story, and more.
Friends and family come and stay for days, weeks, and join in the fun sledding down our secret hill in the woods at midnight. The pups are petted and fussed over endlessly.
If I had one wish for the world it would be that everyone could be as happy and as snug as we are here at Henwoodie.
“It’s snowing!” is the phrase that everyone listens for, including the pups, and propels the household into a frenzy of activity. Boots, hats, scarves, coats, and scarves are hastily pulled on for the long hikes through the snow.