Before the word snowflake became frozen in insult territory, compounded by the (shit)storms of 2017 and the year preceding, it was simply a word that, in my opinion, perfectly captured the wondrous, fleeting, festive time between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year—my favorite holidays of the year. There’s something about this time, it has that special chiaroscuro. Dark and light intensify to a high contrast, heightening every joyous emotion as starkly as a lone flame on a sill.
Snowflake. When wistful, melancholy Autumn makes its decisive turn towards darkness, sliding swiftly and surely down that steep, ice-slicked path to appendage-numbing, bitter cold. Berlin winters are known to be especially brutal. Yet, in the beginning, it’s not unwelcome.
That first hit of ice in the air is potent. A refreshing whiff of minty juniper—smelling salts for the bored, the weary. Breaths instantly form clouds, wrapping hurried outdoor conversations in a veil of new romance. Trees bare their souls. They reveal themselves to be splendid forms worthy of adoration. Appreciatively, many are adorned with twinkling lights. Gloves, coats, woolen socks, still fresh, dry and stiff, still manage to hold in the warmth of rosy cheeks and tingly skin. These are all a delightful novelty. Winter delights.
At first, a thin lattice forms. New sensations, as thin as a web of frost on a window pane, spreading out in all directions, quickly reinforced by threads of nostalgia. There are so many classics to go back to, Christmas songs, old movies to enjoy, family traditions to cherish, to remember, to continue. A warm bowl of popcorn, a hot mug of cider or cocoa, a plate of frosted cookies studded with tasty tidbits. Less is not more. Stinginess is for Scrooges. Decadent parties and elaborate feasts beckon, merry choruses and spirited revelers abound.
Let’s bring in an entire tree, drape branches in every room, fill our homes with things that glitter and glow, that light up at night. Darkness etches everything into fullness. The tiny light of a distant star finally reaches us to foretell the future.
Children sleep to fanciful tales of flying reindeer and a jolly saint who brings them all presents, in one chimney swoop, all at once. Dreams hover and float. Joy clings to this gossamer of tinsel, hanging on the tip of an evergreen. As whole and perfect as the word made flesh.
By the turn of the year, all this will dissolve, as swiftly and surely as a sugar wafer, so beautifully, so intricately iced.
Text and images by M.P. Baecker