Monday, June 20, 2011

Winter Festival - Fire and Light and Pots of Food

Our midwinter celebration, a festival of fire and light, giving kids old and young a chance to play with sparklers, make lanterns, sit mesmerised around a bonfire cradling mugs of hot soup and mulled wine, watching sparks fly into the air to join the stars.

By some miracle,  year after year, we manage to have an evening that is clear and still, and this year too, the wind dropped on cue, the rain held off till after midnight, when everyone was already tucked up in bed and the bonfire burned in fine style.

As we sat in the circle, the kids with lanterns parked in front of them, others hanging theirs on the sticks to make a colorful dancing circle of light around us, we read our blessings and St Francis' prayer, the girls sang the St Johns song that they all know from Waldorf school and there was a wonderful peaceful quality in the air.

Then it was time for sparklers, hot chocoolate, mulled wine and lighting the bonfire.

I needed my biggest pots – we had 45 people, 20 of them children, who were on hot chocolate, but even so the mulled wine vanished in a flash from my big stockpot. All the mugs from all three houses were requisitioned and we ate soup from mugs, moving on to sausage and boerewors rolls as the stalwart braai team produced them.

I’m going to need to invest in more pots if we have this many people next year – the lentil soup went down so well that the poor old braai master (my husband) only got one, not full, mug and no seconds and the mulled wine also ran out before he got a chance for seconds of that too... proof that everyone enjoyed it of course!

So I’ve made notes for next year, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll find that piece of paper or even remember that I did make notes – so reminder to self: make more soup and more mulled wine next year! 

The rain poured down all night, putting out the fire very thoroughly and washing the colour from the crepe paper decorated lanterns.

When the sun came out in the afternoon the sandpit was washed clean of footprints and had taken on another form of beauty – the calm after the storm.

Thank you to all our friends for joining us and making this such a special occasion for all of us!


  1. Wow - 45 people! Yo uare very brave :) I've been reading about your annual summer and winter festivals for years and I still find them totally inspirational :)

  2. The Winterfest is one of my favorite posts of yours, I look forward to it every year. It's sort of symbolic, the color washing out of the lanterns. That's what winter does to us up in New York - washes all the green out of the leaves, steals the color from the flowers... and when the colors come back, it's spring again!

    Happy Winter Solstice to you from Summer Solstice country!

  3. It sounds absolutely beautiful! Love this post. Will you share your recipe for mulled wine and lentil soup? Where I come from, we do not celebrate this festival. But, having a midwinter party will make a wonderful idea for a theme party!


  4. It looks like a great party was had by all. I'm a big fan of "vin chaud"!

  5. Jeanne - you must come to one if you ever manage to be in SA at this time of year!

    Thanks, Marcheline - hope your summer solstice was a good one!

    Jen - here is the link to the lentil soup recipe
    it's from Marcella Hazan, a really good Italian recipe. I'll post the mulled wine recipe soon here.

    Hi Meredith - what spices does vin chaud have in it in France? It would be interesting to compare recipes.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!