Completely Safe and Totally Human Midwinter Holiday Tips
1. Get the food right. Sprinkle glitter on popcorn. Cut cinnamon cookies into star shapes. Holidays are the time to indulge! Try something delicious, like an unearthly feast under the snowy trees (just our little example!). Maybe there are impossible mounds of succulent meats, strange fruits that smell like winter, crystal decanters of glimmering wine, pomegranate seeds, and rosewater delights. Maybe you’ll pinch yourself to check you’re not dreaming. Ignore those faint stirrings of unease and treat yourself!
Even one bite will do.
2. Think about the ambiance. Ambiance can make a holiday truly memorable! Let’s talk lighting. Fairy lights are always popular. At dusk, you might see them floating over the marshes. You might be tempted to gather them yourself. To which we say: Cool! Go for it!
And how about candles? Scented candles make a charming gift, especially if you personalise them. We like sea salt and juniper for those difficult-to-buy-for colleagues, like the intern who spent a night on the sea cliffs during Samhain, and no longer speaks in human tongues. Or the scent of burnt paper and honey-smoke for the librarian who knows too much.
Don’t forget to get a few for yourself! When—if—the power goes out on the longest night of the year, you’ll need some candles handy. They won’t be much help when you’re trying to work out what that skittering noise is (hopefully, rats) because candlelight makes the shadows flicker and leap. But it’s so romantic!
3. Thoughtful gifts. People like to be remembered, and it’s the thought that counts. So why not gift your thoughts and memories? Memories weigh you down. They make you pause wistfully, the word home hovering in your mind. Boring! You don’t need that. We can take your memories, wrap them stylishly, and hand deliver them to your loved ones! Oh, you’ve forgotten who your loved ones are?
Or maybe just a harmless splash of your blood, the teensiest hank of your hair. Just enough to seal a contract. What contract? Probably nothing! Maybe something fun! It’s the Holidays!
A personal gift means the recipient never forgets you, and always knows exactly where to find you. So sweet!
4. Forget the kids! They’re usually this quiet, it’s not weird. No need to check the cradle! They’re fine.
5. Get the music right! Maybe, in the deep cold night, a hunting horn will sound overhead, mixed with howls and hoofbeats and the cries of wild geese. Nothing screams ‘midwinter’ like voices out in the woods!
Or you could play your guests an unearthly tune. Something catchy. Something that will leave them vacant-eyed and compelled to stumble after it, canapés falling from their hands unnoticed. Maybe they’ll follow the tune for years! Maybe it will drive them mad 🙂
If you have time, make your own festive playlist. We ourselves are fascinated by playlists. Unfortunately they don’t work in our sphere. Oh well, back to stealing musicians! Haha, just our little joke!
6. Don’t listen to your grandmothers! Especially not their old wives’ tales. Ignore them. Trust us.
7. Play games! Not mundane board games. How about a riddle game? Three guesses, any riddle, and bet something fun to make it interesting. Raise the stakes—perhaps the loser has to wash up after dinner, or maybe they lose their soul! Everyone loves riddles, but think beyond boozy Aunt Mabel, Great-Uncle Doug with the questionable politics, and overly-chatty cousin Tim. Bargain with the voice that comes from the lake. No, you don’t need to know who it belongs to. The Holidays are for everyone!
8. When it comes to decorations, less is more! Ditch tradition! No mistletoe. No rowan. NO sage. No holly over the hearth or the mantel. Salt is passé. Iron? Absolutely not. In fact, leave the windows wide open. Fresh air is healthy. Don’t close them at night, either. Leave the heating on if you must, but let the night air in.
9. Provide drinks and refreshments. Have non-alcoholic drinks available. One great idea is milk. Just pop a little saucer of milk by your doorstep. Don’t let the cat have it, it’s not for her. It’s for your guests. Not those guests. The other guests. In fact, better leave milk out all year round.
10. Dance up a storm! Good dancing should leave your feet bleeding and frost-scarred. It should take place on a strange hill during strange winds, under a storm-wracked moon.
Afterwards you might find deer blood in your hair. Wrong-shaped footprints might lead to your door. You may feel like you’ve danced for months or years on end.
Such an exaggeration! Twelve nights of dancing will do.
11. Don’t forget the pets! Maybe your pets have unaccountably gone missing? Maybe your cat is shaking under the couch, refusing to go outside? Maybe she hisses and arches her back at nothing, and stares at a certain corner of the room?
Could be it’s time to upgrade your cat! May we suggest a raven?
12. A Trip Out. How about the local park? Under the trees, where grass grows in a circle. What a perfect place for a picnic! Remember to wrap up warmly, though, because it’s a bit chilly, and you don’t know when you’ll next be home again.
Or perhaps you want something more adventurous? How about the moorlands? The high, wild places are great for exercise, or to see something that you really hope is just a deer! There are bogs and broken stone circles and curlews calling in the mist. And when you get home, you’ll have earned your pudding! Or maybe your family will no longer recognise you. Either way!
13. Thirteen. Thirteen is a secret.
About the author:
E.M. Linden (she/her) is a reader, writer, bureaucrat, and peace and conflict studies grad from Aotearoa, New Zealand. She has recently returned to speculative fiction so that she can spend more time writing about ghosts, monsters, and witches. Her work has appeared in The Deadlands and is forthcoming in Kaleidotrope. She currently lives in Turkey with her partner and a disreputable rescue cat.
Find E.M. Linden: