January in England is a month of short, crisp days and long, cosy evenings by the fire. It’s a month of hats, gloves, scarves and staying inside whenever possible, with the constant promise of snow in the air.
As the glow of Christmas finally fades away, the whole year now stretches before us, so it’s a time for making plans and sharing hopes and dreams for the 12 months ahead.
So settle down with a glass of something warming and your new journal. Dig out your oversized blankets and fleecy pyjamas and start the year as you mean to go on by making the most of everything January has to offer.
If you were born in January, your birthstone is the Garnet. This rich, red jewel is perfect for the start of the year, as it symbolises good health, peace and prosperity. It can also be given as a gift to represent lifelong friendship.
The birth flowers for January are the snowdrop and the carnation. The delicate white snowdrop is the traditional symbol of the first new growth of the year, and it represents hope.
Carnations have different meanings depending on their colour: white for pure love, pink for affection, and yellow for disappointment. A striped carnation represents unrequited love, while the classic red carnation, of course, means, “I love you”.
With New Year behind us, January tends to be a quiet month, giving everybody a chance to recover from the festivities of December, but there are a few noteworthy days.
In Scottish) folklore, New Years Day was also known as Hogmanay and many years ago, it was celebrated with a tradition known as The First Footing.
The idea is that the first person to walk through the door of a house on New Years Day, would bring luck to the household for the rest of the year.
Traditionally, this was supposed to be a tall, dark haired man, but many people just picked the luckiest person they knew. Never a woman or a red head though – way too much superstition around those guys.
The First Footerwould always bring small gifts to the house. Usually just simple things like bread or coal.
Then we have Handsel Monday, the first Monday of the new Year when children were given small gifts as tokens of good luck for the year. Small gifts of money were also given to servants.
There’s the Winter Wassailing, the first Saturday of the New Year, a night of celebration and general merrymaking when people would go from house to house, singing in exchange for money and small gifts, carrying with them a Wassail Bowl – a bowl containing hot mulled cider (yum).
We have the Twelfth Night, the 5th of January and date when Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down (celebrated in London with a winter festival day based around the site of Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre).
The Epiphany, on the 6th of January.
And then, Plough Monday, the first Monday after the twelfth night and the traditional start to the British agricultural year.
This is traditionally when everybody went back to work after Christmas and Ploughmen would drag a plough in a procession from house to house, with musicians and other entertainers, collecting money to help them through the winter months.
Birds and animals
Christmas may be over, but the robin is still very much present in English gardens in January, along with thrushes and starlings. In more rural areas, lakes are populated with mallard and tufted ducks.
If you visit the woodland, you may be able to spot deer, which are made more visible at this time of year by the bare trees. It is also an ideal time to keep a look out for foxes, as this is their mating season, and you may hear the vixens calling to the males after dark.
Plants and flowers
January is a time for appreciating the stark beauty of the trees without their leaves, and the dramatic silhouettes they make against the setting sun. Hazel catkins are appearing, and before the end of the month, snowdrops will have pushed their way to the surface of the ground.
Extra touches of colour at this time of year can be provided by the vibrant yellow of the winter aconite, the gentle purple Algerian iris, and even some early primroses if the climate is particularly mild in your garden.
Things to cook
A steaming bowl of porridge is the perfect way to fill you up and start the day on dark, chilly January mornings.
No time to sit around and wait for it to cool? No problem. Why not whip up some overnight oats in a jam-jar or another leak-proof storage container the night before. Add strawberries, blueberries, apples, cinnamon, peanut butter or even cocoa powder and chocolate chips! Perfect for breakfast on the move.
If one of your New year’s resolutions was to make an effort to be a little healthier, then a few new breakfast smoothie recipes are a fabulous place to get started.
While we’re on the subject of breakfast, January is the perfect time of year for spiced teas and coffees. If you’re feeling brave, you could try a bright green matcha latte, or have a go at making your very own golden turmeric latte.
If you feel in need of a detox, turmeric can also be combined with lemon and ginger to make a delicious detox tea, or if that tastes a little too much Lemsip for you, plain lemon or fresh mint teas are equally cleansing.
Of course, long dark January days call for easy, wholesome meals at night. Stews made in the slow cooker and warming soups are ideal for those evenings when you get home far too-tired and cold to cook.
Make life easy for yourself with hot pots, casseroles and pasta bakes. Perfect for nourishing the body and the soul.
There are plenty of fresh ingredients to add, including potatoes, leeks, sprouts, cauliflower, parsnips and turnips, which are all still in season and easy to get your hands on.
Try and add as many leafy green vegetables as you can at this time of year too, as they contain high levels of Vitamin C to help you ward off seasonal illnesses like colds and flu.
For an extra treat on a cold night, why not indulge in a homemade hot chocolate or an old fashioned pudding?
There are still more than enough apples and pears around to make pies and crumbles, or why not try your hand at a traditional syrup sponge pudding or a jam roly-poly? If you’re short on time, then microwave mug-cakes are a super-fast solution.
Serve with plenty of custard to feel warm all over!
Things to make
January is a month of ice all over the pavements outside, frost on the windows and cosy comforts inside.
Think hot baths, candles, toasting marshmallows , board games and baking.
Anyone who can sew or knit will be kept busy in January making hats, scarves, and oversized blankets for maximum cosiness, but if (like me), you can’t thread a needle, you could always have a bash at making some homemade bubble bath or candles made from pure honeycomb beeswax sheets to give your home an extra touch of warmth and comfort.
If your skin is suffering from exposure to the elements outside, homemade moisturising lip balms and hand creams might also be a good idea. Many lotions and potions can be made in under 10 minutes with ingredients readily available in high street chemists and crafts stores.
If you’re desperate to ward off seasonal coughs and colds., then homemade botanical honey infusions cab be really fun to experiment with.
Honey has long been known to have amazing antibacterial properties and can easily be flavoured with lemon peel, lavender and many other garden herbs.
If you’ve already been afflicted with the above, then homemade herbal cough sweets might bring welcome relief.
They’re super simple, with only a few ingredients and are so much nicer than the shop-bought kind (there’s only so many pills you can take for a snuffley nose).
Thinking back to our home and gardens. Remember that January is still bleak and bare for all those birds who have stuck around for the winter months.
Bird seed cakes are super easy to make using bird seed, raisins, lard and a mould. Place high up around your garden, out of reach of interested cats and other predators.
Of course, the most popular things to make in January are New Year’s Resolutions. Many of us decide to take things up, or give things up, this month. How well we stick to these plans depends on our willpower. If you go in for that sort of thing, whatever your resolutions are this year, good luck!
Things to do
Having recently indulged in all that Christmas fare, January is the ideal time to start getting fit and healthy again. However, this doesn’t mean you have to suffer the gym. Wrap up warm and take a few brisk walks along England’s famous coastlines or through the countryside to feel great and appreciate the true beauty of the winter season.
Once back inside, indulge in a bubble bath or four. Light the candles, pour a glass of your favourite tipple, grab a book and while away a few hours soaking in the tub.
January is traditionally the time of the year when we all get organised, so set some time aside to set up a journal or scrapbook for the new year and have a tidy up – even it’s just organising the photos on your computer or apps on your phone.
Think about visiting friends and family that you missed overt the Christmas break; start planning a summer holiday (before everything gets booked up) and start making plans for jobs that need to be done around the house and garden this year.
Planning your garden or allotment is always a good idea. What fruit and vege are you planting? Where and when?
Remember that January is a month that includes National Bird Day (Saturday the 5th); The Big Garden Birdwatch (26th-28th); Winnie the Pooh Day (18th) and National Storytelling week (starts Saturday 26th).
Places To Go:
After the chaos of the festive season, January can feel comparatively slow, but there are still a few alternatives to January-sale shopping if you know where to look.
As long as you’re not too hung over, head to London’s Piccadilly at 12pm on the 1stof the month for London’s New Year’s Day parade. Watch musicians and performers as they march along the route through some of London’s biggest tourist destinations, ending at Parliament Street.
If you’re feeling brave (or slightly unhinged), you could go down to London’s Victoria Docks at 11am for the annual New Year’s Day Dip in the freezing cold Thames.
There’s usually free hot drinks and snacks available afterwards, but I’m not convinced that makes it remotely worth thinking about.
Another event in the city. If you’re in the vicinity of Canary Wharf between the 15th and the 26th, the annual winter lights festival returns for the fifth year in a row with amazing light installations and interactive works of art.
Further up the country, the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival takes place at the Manchester Central Convention Complex from the 24th – 26th of January 2019. Probably best to avoid this one if you intend on completing dry January.
Remember that most tourist attractions, including museums and zoos are open all the year around, so if you’re at a loose end, remember to look at what’s going on local to you.
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