According to custom in many European countries, the twelve days in late December and early January are a very special time of the year. In Germany these Twelve Days of Christmas are called the Raunächte, which literally means ‘raw nights’. This period generally begins on 24 December with Christmas Eve and concludes on 6 January with Epiphany. It was believed that calamity threatened during this dark period because the gateway to ‘the other side’ and the spirit world was wide open. In order to avoid conjuring up devils, ghosts or demons, people fasted, prayed and lit incense in their living quarters and barns. Women were not supposed to hang out any white washing to dry, because it was believed this would draw attention to the ‘wild hunt’ in the lead up to New Year’s Eve. To some extent it was a period of timelessness, when normal everyday life came to a standstill
Even if ideas like this probably no longer play much of a role, especially in a modern urban society, the time between Christmas and New Year is still known as ‘between the years’ in Germany. This bygone custom can certainly be compared nowadays to the process of looking deep within oneself. Most of us would like to take a break ‘between the years’. Everyday life should come to a halt, and the days should be filled with special things. We want to find some peace and quiet, experience a tranquil Christmas, and then start off in the new year by making some good resolutions.
But right now during a coronavirus pandemic, it’s not always easy. Some people feel unsafe and under threat, while others feel lonely or shut in at home. The goal then is to drive out the inner demons. I find reading helpful in moments like that. Not only does it provide a distraction, but it also opens up different ways of looking at things and communicates new values.
Perhaps you also have little rituals that assist you in overcoming the dark times: I truly hope that these help you – just like incense used to do – to take heart and find some peace.
With this in mind, I wish you a peaceful and relaxing holiday and an inspiring transition to the new year.
Yours, Eva Raabe