We are in the coldest part of winter. Not a time to be alone, pecking at the edge of the tide for morsels.

 No, it’s time for our annual midwinter dinner (two weekends ago). Our family links up with my friend and her daughter, and once again we are joined by the Chinese solo mother and her two children. We bring wintry, Christmassy food, for this is our Christmas and new year season, if we follow the rhythms of the earth and sun. I couldn’t photograph my Christmas pudding with its blue flames because the flash drowned the colour of the flickering blue flames. But we all saw them.
It was good to feast with our extended (and extending) families,

and gather around the fire to tell stories. This year our theme was: ‘A special gift’. I was touched by the story told by the Chinese mother. 
As a young woman she saw a little Chinese boy who seemed strong and independent. When she had children, she wanted them to be like that. This little boy was sent away to school at the age of one year old. (Yes! I know.) She thought that to send her children away at a young age would be the secret to bringing them up tough and strong. But, fortunately, she was by this time growing up in New Zealand. She learned about the Play Centre movement, and by taking her children to Play Centre, learned a whole different way. 
Her special gift to her children was bringing them up in this different way, and being an at-home mother until they were ready to go to school.
Connection, not isolation was the answer to raising a strong child, because that child would be secure and loved. This year her 8 year old daughter joined in the story telling by reading a poem she had written and illustrated. We all loved it, and welcomed her coming-of-story-age. Her six year old son sat mesmerised by the candle flames, taking it all in.
Our little one had a story too, which she was too shy to tell, but the week before, she told me so that I could pass it on.
After the stories, which were rich and wonderful, we each lit a candle and made a wish.

Being together, creating new family constellations, creating new traditions and magic. That’s what encourages the light to return, when we are in the dark nights of winter.

Being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exalt our creativity, is essential to the flow of creative life. Otherwise we freeze. 
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes.