Let There Be Light

Stories, events and happenings in nature: from ways to celebrate the Winter Solstice to the symbolism and healing properties of our favourite festive herbs. Plus, this month’s Full Cold Moon.

“Chill the night wind moans and sighs, On the sward the stubble dies; Slow across the meadows rank, Float the cloud-rifts grim and dank; On the hill-side, bare and brown, Twilight shadows gather down, — ’Tis December.”

Mary Elizabeth Blake

December marks the start of winter in the northern hemisphere, with crisp days and colder nights – and even snow forecasted for some countries. Trees shed their leaves, animals go into hibernation, signs of nature appear to retreat. This shift signals the end of the year and the passing of summer. We have reaped the abundance of autumn, to prepare ourselves for the possibility of a harsh winter. The season and its themes of endings, isolation and loss have inspired some of the most-emotive art and literature around the world.

However, we would be mistaken to interpret it as an entirely sombre or bleak season. Because it precedes the spring, winter also brings messages of rebirth and resilience. Many see images in nature like December flowers as proof that hope can be found even in our darkest moments. Holly, for example, is yet another of the season’s symbols of eternal life. As part of an Advent wreath, holly represents Jesus’s crown of thorns, while the four candles symbolise hope, faith, joy and peace.


On 21 December, we’ll be celebrating the Winter Solstice, which marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. The word Solstice is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). On this day, the sun’s daily path appears to pause before reversing direction. The sun begins to wax, and the days grow longer as we move towards spring.

One of our favourite Solstice festivals is Shab-e-Yalda – candles are kept burning throughout the night, while families dine together, sharing fruits and nuts said to offer protection from illness. In a nod to this tradition, we’ll be gathering around our festive table and serving seasonal ingredients from winter salads with pomegranate and pears to roasted brussels sprouts sprinkled with toasted almonds.


Whether through offers of warming food, charitable donations or simple acts of kindness, this truly is the season of giving. This winter, through The Nature Conversancy, you can gift trees to help restore our global forests. Meanwhile, The Floristry has curated a range of wild-inspired gifts, from floral jars to finishing touches for your home, plus soaps and scents infused with essential oils.

For something extra special, look to our woven throw, designed by London-based illustrator Rosanna Corfe and made with 70% recycled materials. We’ll be draping ours over the sofa, ready for guests, to make layering up on winter’s long nights feel even more luxurious.


The route to rest and recovery can also be found in seasonal herbs. Sage is believed to provide immortality in wisdom and the body, while rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help boost immunity. Named after the herb that symbolises strength, Thyme in the Cotswolds, UK, will be holding an exhibition until April 2022, in celebration of House & Garden editor Clare Foster and photographer Andrew Montgomery’s recent book, Winter Gardens (Montgomery Press).

In his foreword, landscape designer Dan Pearson writes: ‘The dark months allow us the opportunity to reflect. There is time to think, without the need to necessarily do, and time to look at the bones of the garden.’ This winter, we can prepare our green spaces by asking meaningful questions: What seeds can we sow next year? What would we like to cultivate?


These are valuable themes to consider as we approach the Full Cold Moon on 18 December. There is a sense that something has been growing beneath the surface, a desire in us all to break new ground or start conversations. It is time to nourish these thoughts or feelings over the next month.

For all our stargazers: look out for the Geminids, one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, which peak around 13 December. Here’s to a crisp and clear winter’s night.