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Friday, December 12, 2014

What Makes Your Winter Special?

What’s your favorite holiday treat? Mine is gingerbread cookies and peppermint hot chocolate. This question got me wondering about what makes winter special. 

Some of us embrace this coldest, darkest season for its warmth of spirit, while for others it is bleak. 

No matter what religious system you do or don’t belong to, most of us equate this time of year with memories – good and bad. 

And then there’s the role of tradition. Those with family traditions seem to love winter more... As we mature, we put our own spin on it all. We create new traditions, often blending them with those of our partners or the influence of cultures and places we’ve lived and visited.

Growing up in the tropics where Christmas was spent on the beach instead of the slopes, my family skied on water instead of snow. 

As an adult, I took childlike pleasure in snowy winter adventures and après ski. The sound of silence as snow fell in the forest during an afternoon winter walk thirty five years ago inspired deep reverence that touches me to this day.

Here are a few things that can make the winter season special~~
The scent of pine blended with that indefinable aroma that rises from a crackling fire

Bells of all sorts jingling

Oldies playing, like “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”

The clear harmony of a choir composed of childlike voices

Icicles hanging from roofs, sparkling in weak winter sunlight

A freshly stacked snowman on the front lawn of a family home

The long echoing whistle of a distant train cutting through an icy night, reminiscent of Polar Express 

Lights sparkling on bejeweled trees in the front windows of homes

Main streets and lanes glowing with external lights that adorn and beautify our world

The aroma of warm gingerbread cookies, baked with blended spices to create kitchen magic we often only use from October to year’s end – nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cinnamon

Peppermint red and white candy canes dissolving in hot chocolate

Bustling gift markets where happy vendors share their inspired creations

Peace, Goodwill and Respect For All Life

Since ancient times, humans have honored winter as the season of endings – death before rebirth. It is the time of longest darkness and shortest light… the perfect time for inner reflection, meditation, being still, releasing and letting go.  

If you love this season of magic, and are counting your blessings, consider reaching out to touch someone who is struggling. Many people feel despair in winter, whether for economic lack, loss, loneliness or spiritual discord. A gesture of goodwill from a friend or stranger can trigger the renewal of their spirit of hope. 

During this season of generosity we give, share and make peace with others and with ourselves. As the year winds down, we let go of what didn’t work and craft bright new beginnings. 

Here is a recipe for the popular Glühwein of the Alpine countries. It warms body, mind and spirit – and makes you glow – glow wine. There’s nothing more magical after a walk in the snow, than warming your bones and turning your icy cheeks toasty as you stare into a crackling fire with a mug of Glühwein between your palms. 

Enjoy, and experiment with the flavors according to your tastes. Who knows, it may start a new winter tradition…

***GLÜHWEIN – WARM MULLED WINE*** (8-10 mugs) (Recipe Contains Alcohol)

2 bottles of dry red wine 750 ml each—Beaujolais, Merlot—any type you like
2 cups of water
2 oranges + 1 orange for squeezing juice
2 sticks of cinnamon
6 cloves

Put wine, water, cinnamon sticks, and the juice of 1 orange into a saucepan. Stick the cloves into a slice of orange peel and drop it into the liquid. Dice the other 2 oranges and add to the liquid. Warm on high and stir. Reduce to a simmer when it almost boils. Turn off heat and remove orange peel, cloves and cinnamon. Serve by ladling into warm mugs and garnish with a slice of orange. 

Some recipes add cardamom pods, star aniseed, ginger slices, vanilla pods. If you are entertaining, you can set this punch-like brew up in a slow cooker but remember it will take longer. Prost! (Cheers)

Please leave a comment and share a favorite winter memory, or what you love most about this time of year. 

Happy Holidays!

Enjoy Gemma’s two seasonal novellas – Autumn Masquerade and Christmas Spirits.

GEMMA JULIANA is a multi-published author who lives in an enchanted cottage in north Texas with her handsome hero, teen son and a comical dog. She loves making new friends and hearing from readers. Exotic coffee and chocolate fuel her creativity. You can buy Gemma’s books on Amazon as well as at other ebook stores as found on her website: Read about and download the FREE A Holiday Anthology she participated in at
Follow @Gemma_Juliana on Twitter:


Tina Donahue said...

The aroma of warm gingerbread cookies, baked with blended spices to create kitchen magic we often only use from October to year’s end – nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cinnamon - yep, that's what I like. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Gemma, what a beautiful post. You made me feel the magic of the Christmas season. I'm a summer person myself, but there are things about winter I like. The Christmas season is one. I love Christmas cookies, Christmas music, getting together with family. I have fond memories of sledding and ice skating as a kid. And memories of my husband and son going sledding while I stayed home by the fire and read. I do love to curl up before a crackling fire in the fireplace with a glass of wine (thanks for the mulled wine recipe), and a good book.

One of the few things I like about winter now is homemade soups and stews. I make a lot of them during the cold months. But I'll still take warm weather any day.

Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Paris said...

Thank you for the delightful post. Food has always been huge traditional touch stone in my family. Ethnic favorites like Povitica,Croatian nut bread that can also be made with a cheese or apple filling (like streudel), Creamy Macaroni and Cheese and the wonderful scent of cookies baking. Spritz were an all time favorite in our house but my tradition extended to the Polish Kolatchy when I married. I love the smell of gingersnaps baking. I think your post has made me want to bake today instead of work, lol! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Rose Anderson said...

Just loved the post,Gemma. Such a wonderful list to make things better. It sparked a happy memory. When I was still dating the man who would become my husband, we built a snowman on top of my father's car. Such joy to watch him drive down the street. :) Happy Holidays and a bright Solstice.

Gemma Juliana said...

Hi Tina, there's no better aromatherapy in the world! Thanks for commenting today.

Gemma Juliana said...

So glad you enjoyed the post, Cara. I think we all have some happy memories of Christmases past. Sometimes we forget some of the treasury of memories we've built up. We make our own magic, and yours is definitely reflected in your enchanting holiday stories.

Gemma Juliana said...

Paris, your family recipes sound delicious and I'm sure created a foundation for many special holiday events over the years. Thanks for sharing about your traditions, and Happy Holidays!

Gemma Juliana said...

What a delightful memory, Rose! You and your husband knew how to tap into the joy of the season. I hope you still create magical surprises, even if they are a little less bursting with the seasoning of youth. I wish you a bright Solstice, too, and very Happy Holidays in your harvest home.

vicki batman said...

Hi, Gemma, that drink sounds delicious. I have one for cranberry orange tea that I like to serve, but haven't in a while. Maybe I need a party???

A wonderful post as always, Gemma. Happy holidays!

Melissa Keir said...

Thank you Gemma for reminding me of the many blessings of winter. I'm often so caught up in the cold that I forget about the blessings!

Great post!

Gemma Juliana said...

Hi Vicki~~A party sounds great and I may just crash yours if you have a great cranberry orange tea to serve! Happy holidays to you, too.

Gemma Juliana said...

Melissa, I think it's common to get caught up in the day-to-day unpleasantness of the season - that's why I wanted to remind all of us of the positives. Have a lovely holiday season!

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