If you’re anything like me, you probably do a double take as you realize just how early it gets dark this time of year. Looking out the window into the inky blackness, you find yourself thinking how it must be time to start winding down for the day, but when you check your watch, you see that it is only 6:45, definitely not shluffy time for anyone above the age of five. While many words have been written on how the lack of sunlight in the winter can lead to sadness and other forms of melancholy, I love this time of year when the nights stretch out ahead of you, frosty black velvet offering its own special blend of magic.
What is it about the lengthy darkness that calls to me? I think a lot of the attraction is seasonal. With the long nights comes Chanukah, starring my husband’s insanely delicious latkes, an endless supply of chocolate coins and lots of time with our delightfully crazy brood. (Chanukah also brings with it my annual campaign to have a donut-free Chanukah… wish me luck in my efforts to resist those carb-laden bundles of yumminess!) November, December and January are also prime time for birthdays in our family, including my own (feel free to send any and all gifts to me care of Olam Yehudi), giving us plenty of reason to celebrate during the shortest days of the year.
The long cold nights offer great opportunities for family bonding time. Those are the nights when everyone snuggles up together to watch a good movie (or embarrassing family videos) or gathers in the kitchen together to pop popcorn, make hot cocoa or put together homemade personal pan pizzas. And then there are those long Friday nights, the perfect time for post-dinner family game nights and a great chance to pit parents against kids, boys against girls or any other lineup of your choice, providing everyone with a fun-filled evening while still having everyone in bed before 9 PM to catch up on lost sleep after a long week at work or school. To be honest, I would be lying if I told you it is easy to be ready for Shabbos when the first number on the clock is a four. Or that I have the table set on Thursday night to minimize the last-minute rush. Or that I have found other time-saving tricks to better manage my Fridays. Or that I am not rushing until the very last second before candle lighting to get everything done. But what I can tell you is that those early Shabbos meals, when you have plenty of time to enjoy your family or your dinner guests, are among the best of the year.
There is one other downside to this time of year: the fact that many of us (though thankfully not me) have to start the day while it is still dark out. As a night person, I can’t think of anything good about being awake before it gets light and I have zero interest in watching the sun rise, no matter how beautiful it may be. My suggestion? If you can get away with it, throw the covers over your head and go back to sleep until daylight makes an appearance.
Meanwhile, there are so many other positives to compensate for those few drawbacks to our newly-shortened days. While I can understand that there are plenty of people who dislike the colder weather, give me freshly chilled air over excessive heat and humidity any day of the week. Here in New York, the early nights usher in the crisp, cold weather where cuddling up is the name of the game. Fluffy blankets beckon invitingly, you get to wrap yourself up in your favorite sweatshirt at the end of the long day and huge pots of soup are the best part of every meal. It’s a time of year when baking cookies is the ultimate past time, filling the house with a deliciously intoxicating scent and making the kitchen even more warm and inviting than usual. And if there just so happens to be a plate of warm cookies cooling on the counter, it wouldn’t be so terrible to taste one or two of them just to make sure they came out good before you serve them to guests, right?
Call me crazy but I love having to put on a jacket before I go out. I probably don’t own more than one or two items of clothing that have usable pockets so I relish the opportunity to have pockets to stash my keys in. (You guys are probably scratching your heads wondering why pockets are such a big deal, but all the women out there are nodding their heads in agreement because you all know exactly what I am talking about.) While some people find scarves and gloves cumbersome and annoying, I love the way a cute pair of gloves or a really funky scarf can transform my coat into an instant outfit that I can don day after day without having the fashion police come after me for wearing the same thing two days in a row. Even my closet seems to celebrate the change of seasons. Some of my favorite wool sweaters must be eight or nine years old, but they still look great year after year while somehow summer clothing seems to fade and show wear and tear all too quickly and gets relegated to the giveaway pile after just a season or two. And don’t get me started on being able to wear my Uggs again. While they may not be the most attractive boots I own, putting them on is like wrapping your feet in bundles of irresistible fluffiness and is the coziest feeling ever.
Other random things that make me enjoy this great fall weather? Not having to rush home after buying groceries so that my milk doesn’t spoil. Not having to worry about running out of refrigerator space because I know I can always leave things out on my deck if need be and they will be perfectly chilled as long as our neighborhood raccoons, deer, groundhogs or squirrels don’t come sniffing around. Not having to worry about having the lawn mowed or having anyone’s allergies acting up because the trees are flowering and pollen is everywhere. Most importantly? Knowing that I still have a good two months of relaxation until I have to start cleaning for Pesach.
Feel free to disagree, but right now all seems right with the world!