We bought this wondrous new ornament at a second-hand shop that's just opened nearby, and discovered on the box that it is a Weihnachts pyramide, or Christmas pyramid. Apparently they are very big (figuratively and literally) in Europe. The idea is to light the candles around the bottom, and the warm air sets the fan at the top spinning, which makes all the little people inside spin too. We fired it up on the night we bought it and turned off all the lights. Hard to say which member of the family was more mesmerised, although the looks on the girls' faces (all three of them) were priceless. It occurred to me that most traditional Christmas activities are much more enjoyable when it's cold outside. Hot lunch, open fires, carol-singing. And how sweet would it be to give hand-knitted mittens and scarves as Christmas gifts, if only it wasn't 35 degrees.
This is quite the turnaround for me, if you'll forgive the somewhat obvious reference to the above. In years past I would dread winter - in fact I'd start dreading it in early Autumn, thus missing the beautiful leaves changing colour and instead gritting my teeth against the coming cold. My jaw would only unclench some time in Spring, and not because of the signs I now cherish - tiny buds on the peach tree, green shoots defiant against grey skies - but only when the weather turned warm.
I credit the girls' school with my newfound appreciation of the seasons. They have such a focus on nature and its changes throughout the year, learning poems and stories that are based around the seasons and all their glory. It is a rare thing in this part of Australia to embrace winter. We tend to kid ourselves that we're living in the tropics, and try to shut out the cold by shutting down. I'm learning that embracing the cold can warm you very effectively from the inside.