A (Holiday) Tea Calendar
Is it just me or have the holidays snuck up on anyone else? A blink of the eye and we're already in December when I could've sworn it was only October a week ago. Growing up, the first of December was when the advent calendar would come out with the holiday decorations. It would sit on my bathroom counter and I always got such joy opening its tiny windows to see what type of chocolate was hidden inside. As I've gotten older and moved out of my childhood home, I've been less enthusiastic about the holiday season. The Christmas holidays during my school years were always the break between semesters. The time I could sleep and relax and read as many non-required books as possible. It also signaled the time for sweaters and layers, warm socks, jackets, and scarves, and late night movie marathons where I'd eat my fill of popcorn and pizza, and somehow still be hungry for more an hour later.
Now those two weeks off in December are for traveling and visiting family, for running around trying to find the perfect gift, for wrapping everything up at work, and for that holiday themed stress to reappear. Does anyone else feel that the holiday season as an adult is stressful? I used to love the holidays. It was a time for setting up the village and throwing fake snow on the tree, for watching White Christmas and Meet Me in St. Louis while wrapping presents. And for eating a ton of cookies carefully placed inside festive tins. Where have all the sprinkled sugar cookies gone? Then I started to notice that some years I would be really into the holidays and others I wasn't into it at all. This year has so far felt like one of those "I'm not quite ready for it all" times. If there could be another month between Thanksgiving and the end of the year I would be happy. I usually like to wait until half-way through December before putting anything up, if at all, and never before Thanksgiving. (Though fairy lights are welcome all year round.) I think a lot of this has to do with the weather around me. There's no snow or frost or need for winter jackets. The air has started to chill in the mornings and evenings, which has been lovely after a string of too hot weather. It's currently that perfect autumn chill that I love so much, though it's different from the chill that gets caught in your bones signaling the start of snow. The lightest sweaters have broken free from the closet and the bathroom heater is now a regular fixture in my mornings. Tiny Cat is very pleased as sleeping in front of the heater is one of her favorite activities.
I spend a lot of my time talking or thinking about the weather, and how climates around the world are changing as the Earth grows warmer. How summer is lasting longer and growing hotter. How winters are becoming colder. How autumn may cease to exist in its vibrance I've come to know and love. The leaves are staying on the trees longer and changing later each year. There is something that happens to a person when you can feel time's progression based on the seasons changing around you, and when that ceases to exist, it alters the way you think about aging and time itself. Which I don't think is a positive thing. I find myself longing for the cold, brisk air because it doesn't exist in Southern California. Then when I'm in the cold, I find myself thinking of rosy cheeks and cold ears, of being curled up in blankets while it snows outside. Soon, dear readers, soon.
This year as a way to take a moment to appreciate this December countdown I'm trying something different. This time of year should be about giving back, taking moments to appreciate all the good in your life, kindness, and good cheer. With everything happening in this country and the world right now, it sometimes feel indulgent and selfish to be focusing on things like this, as it feels like you're not actively engaging or doing enough. To that feeling, which is one I've felt a lot this year, I would say that taking breaks and doing something small that prepares you for the day is not indulgent but necessary. There's so much to pay attention to and care about each day that it can all become very overwhelming. Stay diligent, stay active, but also take a breather and recenter if you need it. So in order to bring in a bit of cheer and calm to each of my days, I've made a holiday tea calendar. Sourced from my tea cabinet, each envelope is filled with a different tea. The contents remain a mystery as I shuffled all the numbered cards before filling, then pulled each envelope at random. I was surprised (and perhaps a bit concerned) to find that I didn't have to repeat teas during the process. There are repeated varieties, for example: two English breakfasts, two spiced winter teas, two oolongs, possibly two Earl Grey's though I can't remember for sure, and multiple varieties from the same companies but no two are exactly the same.
This project was inspired by the plethora of advent calendars available to purchase, and specifically the beautiful Fortnum and Mason tea advent calendar. They had another version available for around £25 which I put into my basket at one point, only to click away as it wasn't something I needed. And right now, I'm trying to be more conscious of not buying things I don't need. The design of the calendar was largely influenced by this calendar from Reading my Tea Leaves, though I didn't realize I was subconsciously following its design until I was halfway through the construction process.
I've fashioned the calendar out of business card envelopes, washi tape, and tiny clothespin I found in a drawer. I had originally looked for larger envelopes that would fit loose leaf paper tea bags but as I couldn't find either, I went for putting the loose leaf tea directly into the envelope, sealing it with a piece of flowered tape, and calling it a day. With The Holiday playing in the background, I pulled all my tea onto the kitchen table, surrounded by supplies, and fell into a therapeutic rhythm. For securing the calendar to the wall, I used twine I had on hand. I would recommend double taping your string as on two occasions I've found that half the calendar has fallen off on one side because the tape wasn't strong enough. Though washi tape is pretty, it is not always the most effective.
I placed the calendar between our cookbook cabinet and the kettle. It doesn't take up much space and is in a spot I'll see everyday, as I'm constantly walking back and forth to the kitchen. As today is December 1st, I pulled the first envelope off the line and was greeted by Teapig's Chilli Chai. It had just the right amount of spice to kick start the morning before rushing off to work. I'm excited to see what each day will bring and what surprises I'll find along the way. What are you looking forward to this month and does your family have any special traditions?