The Charm of January

Mournes in winte r
This photo of the Mournes in winter felt very January-ish to me 

I like January and I’m not crazy about Christmas. Christmas is a fun festival and I enjoy seeing friends and family who return to Ireland, having spread out across the world. The celebration though, the pressure and rush and business; all that is not for me. I feel a bit cramped and off colour. The solstice itself is a fun celebration but the narrowing of daytime in northern winters is difficult. I don’t feel depressed in the long nights, more denied the uplift of a bright evening.

The week between Christmas and New Year I always feel slightly on edge, trapped between the deadlines of pre-Christmas and the resolution heavy plans of the new year. I don’t enjoy the sensation of living in an epilogue, of feeling like threads are slowly unravelling without much input from me. This is also the only time of year when I feel a sense of grief over lost loved ones and friends. It’s a drag.

January is often thought of as a sort of bleak hangover from Christmas but for me it is more like a long relaxing out-breath. If there are no storms the weather can be agreeable in a harsh way. Bright and dry days of a pale sun. What gives January an optimistic edge over it’s more celebrated predecessor is the almost imperceptible lengthening of the days. By the end of the month the afternoon has begun to again resemble daytime, and the sun is just a little bit higher in the sky.

Rather than rush resolutions for the 1st, I like to treat January as a sort of extended period of reflection. The month feels a touch slower and more pensive. Belfast is always quieter in January as people let their livers and bank accounts recover. I like quiet cities. I like walking into shops and catching a sales assistant being distracted by the window, or a reflection in it. Not that I don’t enjoy chatting to strangers, but the forced joviality of Christmas can make silence seem sincere by contrast.

I feel January has a bad reputation, so I have put together a short playlist to help others appreciate it’s charm. These songs all encourage me to feel both relaxed and thoughtful, a state of mind comparable to the gap between focus and blurredness that your vision acquires as you watch the world move past a train window. I hope that listening to this compilation helps readers enjoy the quietest and strangest month of the year.

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