The Twenty-first Day of Christmas: In the Bleak Midwinter

Today is midwinter, the winter solstice, the longest and darkest day of the year (at least in the northern hemisphere). Midwinter is the day that the pendulum swings back from “getting darker and darker” to “slowly getting lighter and lighter.” And although the figuratively darkest days for me usually come in February, Midwinter is the day that promises that light will, in fact, return.

In middle school, our school choir director chose In the Bleak Midwinter as one of the songs we’d sing. Most people didn’t like it: it was unfamiliar and down-tempo, and quite frankly had the word bleak in the title. Not really a happy song, but rather well-suited to be sung by a group of angsty, awkward middle schoolers.

But because I am and always have been an ornery thing, I liked it. Mostly because the evocative language:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.
In the bleak midwinter, long time ago

I could identify with hard, cold earth, ice, snow, and the house where I grew up even moaned if the wind blew hard enough from a certain direction.

Here’s Ed Harcourt’s version of In the Bleak Midwinter. Enjoy!


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