What is Winter? A time to fear? A time for darkness and death? No. Winter is merely part of the endless cycle of sleep and awakening, dying and rebirth. The trees know it: they don’t die each year. They merely sleep through the coldness and put out new leaves in the spring. The birds know it: they come and go by the seasons. The snow is merely a blanket that protects the earth, insulating it against the cold and providing it with moisture in the spring. The darkness doesn’t last throughout. It ends in the middle of the winter, with the solstice in December, and the light returns even in the deepest cold of winter. No, Winter is nothing to fear.
Are there folktales of Winter that see it as just another part of the natural cycle? Yes, too many to list here.
A Russian folktale tells of a girl abused by her stepmother, who has her left out in the winter forest to die. Morosko, Old Man Winter, appears, approves of the girl’s politeness to him, and rewards her with wealth. Another Russian tale personifies Winter’s melting into Spring in the story of Snegourichka, the Snow Maiden who comes to live with an old couple one Winter, but melts away in Spring. This story so intrigued the nineteenth century Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov that he wrote an opera about her.
There are small folk beliefs: in British and American folklore, there is the harmless spirit, Jack Frost (possibly from the Norse Jokul Frosti), who paints the leaves and windows with rime frost.
And it can hardly be considered coincidental that so many religions down through the century have held celebrations about the winter solstice, from the current Christmas and Channukah (which have nothing in common save for being holidays of light) back to ancient customs such as the Norse Yule and the Roman Saturnalia.
Listen to the Winter. Hear the wind’s shouting die and the soft whispering of the snow begin. Remember that the cycle continues, and enjoy what was, what is, what is to come.