I refuse to believe all the hype about Blue Monday. If you start your week with the mindset that everything is gloomy, then it probably will be. In our house, we’ve only just taken the Christmas decorations down. Why? Because I’m not superstitious but I do need a bit of light and sparkle when it goes dark at 4pm. As I’m quite happy to buck a trend, I thought today would be a good day to bring you a feast of ideas for filling your winter days and nights with fun and positivity. So, you can start and end every week during January and February on a high.
Don’t ditch the festive spirit
Once upon a time, people would feast and be merry throughout the winter period (not just at Christmas). And with the dark nights and cold weather, it makes perfect sense to continue doing so today. If you’re not quite ready to pack up the festive spirit, then don’t. There’s no law against keeping fairy lights up around the house. And you can still catch a bit of panto. A rock ‘n’ roll version of Cinderella is on at the Liverpool Everyman until Saturday. Even if you’re done with Christmas themes, you can still party on with help from the riotous Stamptown at Soho Theatre.
Take on some of the old traditions
In times when before we had the convenience of electric lights, we had a close relationship with the dark. And our dependence on the weather brought us traditions that marked the seasons and their gradual change with drinking, singing and light amongst other things.
Imbolc is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox and occurs around the 1st February. This Celtic tradition is all about welcoming in the light and the first signs of spring. So, light your candles or head to one of the organised events taking place this year across the UK, including Manchester, Derry-Londonderry and Shipley.
Wassailing is another winter tradition. This popular Twelfth Night custom involves blessing fruit trees to bring about a good harvest. It features in events through to February, so you can still join in with this cider-based custom. Chepstow’s Wassail and Mari Lwyd is a cross-border celebration that involves a horse’s head and dancing. It returns for this first time this weekend after a four-year sabbatical.
Make the most of the dark
With so many hours of darkness during the winter, you’d be a fool to waste it. So, rather than sit around feeling gloomy, go out and make the most of it. The energetic amongst you might fancy a night-time run. There’s plenty of organised events to choose from, including a charity run in Blackpool, a trail run through Haldon Forest in Devon and a guided run as part of the Fort William Mountain Festival.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the dark nights without flexing your muscles. If you like nature and the outdoors, you could immerse yourself with the Bowland Dark Skies Festival or see floodlit swans at Martin Mere. Or enjoy more than just floodlights with Baylight in Morecambe. It sees artwork lighting up the prom in a display that would make neighbouring Blackpool jealous. Up in Scotland you’ll find a host of Viking fire festivals taking place at this time of year including Shetland’s popular Up Helly Aa.
Have a laugh
If blue Monday is getting to you, you might need a pick-me-up. And laughter is the medicine as they say. So, why not book yourself some tickets for a comedy show? At North London’s Park Theatre is comedy-drama Kim’s Convenience, the hilarious and heart-warming tale of a Korean family-run convenience store that spawned the popular Netflix show. Meanwhile, over in Leicester there’s a whole festival of laugh-out loud shows to watch from household names to next-big-things and the truly off-beat.
Get motivated by inspirational theatre
Caught in a New Year slump? Forget punishing yourself with a gym membership when a trip to the theatre could be all you need to get motivated again. Remarkable – and often forgotten – women from history are brought gloriously to life in pop musical Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World. It’s touring to Cardiff and Milton Keynes this month and continuing across the country during February. You can also catch some powerful physical storytelling with Tess from Ockham’s Razor at the Peacock Theatre in central London as well as in Edinburgh, Salford and Poole this winter.
Embrace the weather
The weather is cold. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s the perfect weather to cosy up and read a good book. You can go with a seasonal read such as Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May and A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore. Choose to go back to nature with The Enchanted Life: Reclaiming the Magic and Wisdom of the Natural World by Sharon Blackie and A Year of Living Simply: The Joys of a Life Less Complicated by Kate Humble. Or go for an uplifting read such as Let the Light Pour In by Lemn Sissay and This Is Happiness by Niall Williams. Penguin have more suggestions here.
But don’t avoid the cold weather completely. Frosty and misty mornings in the countryside give familiar landscapes a whole new look. And they can be really enchanting. Take the time to look for hair ice growing on branches or take a chilly dip to reinvigorate yourself. If you’d like a bit of art mixed in with the natural world, there’s a Wildlife & Wellbeing Trail along the riverside in Barking and you can experience weather in a different way with an orchestral installation at THG in Devon.
Bring more colour into your life
When things seem a bit grey outside, fill your new year with colour while learning a new skill. There’s a silk painting workshop at the Fashion & Textile Museum in London and a watercolour workshop at the THG in Devon to add some vibrancy to your month. And the Lunar New Year is coming up, so get out and watch colourful performances at the National Maritime Museum.
Discover something new
You hear a lot of ‘New Year, new me’ stuff in January. But your mental health can struggle at this time of year. So, forget trying to stick to unachievable resolutions and go and enjoy some new experiences instead. Discover new storytelling and voices at The Soho London Independent Film Festival or find your new favourite band at a small venue as part of Independent Venue Week. Hear untold stories from unusual perspectives with the Play Inside podcasts.
Enjoy your blue Monday
Caroline at Contrary Life