This is the darkest day. December 21, the winter solstice, is when the sun shines least upon our planet this calendar year. This day, of all days, you should feel most free to eat your feelings. What do your feelings taste like this dim, grim morning, just days before the yule? Are they flavored with peppermint, cinnamon, and promise? Are they sugar-spun childhood whimsy, drenched in icing, syrup, and elfin glee? Are they, like mine, coated in toaster floor drippings and crumbs, threatening to ignite, then smolder at the flick of a switch? Yeah, you (we) need (deserve) a truly bitchen breakfast in order to be fortified against the gloom.
Perhaps shall we look toward the Swedes? Their midwinter St. Lucia’s Day used to coincide with the winter solstice, back before the Gregorian calendar came in and knocked everything off kilter. Now that’s celebrated December 13, but oh well. During the feast of this Catholic martyr (and patron saint of writers, salesmen, throat infection, and the blind), “S,” figure eight, or cat-shaped saffron yeast rolls called Lussekatter (Lucy cat) are customary. They’re often served with coffee on a tray borne by the eldest daughter of a family while she wears a white dress, a red sash, and a candle-decked wreath. Whether she wants to or not. This is her lot, this short, stygian day.
In Sicily, around the solstice, a week-long St. Lucia’s feast brings cuccía—a wheatberry porridge made with ricotta cheese and sugar or honey. That sounds nice, but we’re not there. And really, do your feelings ever truly taste like wheatberries? Really? OK.
Should Druidic forces draw you toward Stonehenge, as they do so many on this auspicious day, you may be heartened to know that the £69 Solstice Saver Rate at the Salisbury-Stonehenge Holiday Inn can, for a mere £12 extra, include breakfast on the al fresco dining terrace at The Solstice Bar & Grill. Fret not over potential frostbite. Per the hotel’s website, “Should the weather turn a little cooler remain seated as we turn on our external heating units to ensure you remain ambient and comfortable.” Starbucks coffee is available, as it will be until the earth crashes into the sun.
As it turns out, my flaming toaster crumb ethos is not that far off on this brief, yucky day. Fire is a frequent element of solstice ceremonies, heralding the return of the sun to the sky. (BTW, you may have seen claims that this was the darkest night in 500 years due to a lunar eclipse, but that’s just more Facebook fake news as the next lunar eclipse isn't until February.) If you don’t have easy a.m. access to a bonfire or hearth, consider pouring a shot of 151 rum atop your coffee and setting it ablaze, or flambéeing a figgy pudding with brandy butter in your office break room. It’s the holidays! I’m probably just gonna treat myself to an egg sandwich (that's what my feelings taste like on my brightest days), light a bacon fat candle, and try my level best to stop cursing the darkness.