There are few months more variable in mood and character than December at the lakes. At times it is a month of storm and wind, and we hear the horns of the Atlantic blowing their thunderous voices among the hills, at other times we have windless calm and our lakes lie like mirrors for Father Christmas or the glad New Year to see their faces in; again, at times, though there is no snow in the valley, for the most part the tops are winter white, whilst again they stand up against the blue-grey sky slopes of lilac melting into brown and russet, or white-grey fell tops of blanched grass falling downward into grey-green. (p. 234)
There is at these times, however, a sound of brooks in the silence and through the grey morning the rooks go forth with clamour and return in the early afternoon to their roosting places with noise, while the solemn evening twilight or the moonlit nights are made glad with the crowing of the owls. If weather permits, the farmers go afield with their horses and the brown fallows are dappled with those fearless children of the sea, the white winged gulls; the fieldfares chatter amongst the berried hedgerows, and the starlings fill the air with the strange whisper of their wings—except for these sounds December is dumb. (pp. 234-235)
I am wrong, two birds sing. The wrens that run along the mossy walls more like mice than birds may be heard quavering their Christmas song, and well they may, for they dwell in the land of Wrens, the ‘Rans’ or over-runners of the Viking times and they feel the Norse life in their blood that keeps them warm in fiercest winter time; we have another bird—bird sacred in the Crosthwaite valley to the patron saint, St. Kentigern—the robin redbreast; he is not to be out-done by his little Viking cousin, and he too sings lustily and with good cheer, at morning, noon and eventide. (p. 235)
The charm of the woodland at this time of year lies in the ruddy hue of the fallen leaf and the faded bracken on the ground and the little russet-coated squirrel that sits up alone and regales himself between his slumbers with beech mast and pine-cone seed. But the beauty of the woods is much enhanced by the noble growth of the holly. Hollies grow in the lake country, if they escape the woodman’s axe, as if they felt the lake country was peculiarly their own. (p. 235)….
Generally speaking, the feeling for Christmas holiday is as strong as it is wide-spread in expression. The old Norse feeling for Yule as a time of rejoicing at the Winter solstice and the return of the sun has never died. Every farmhouse kitchen in the week before Christmas is sweet with the oven’s breath. “Standin pie”—a sort of glorified pork-pie in appearance, but made of raisins, currants, suet, meat, candied peel, sugar, nut-meg, and spice—and mince pies, currant pasties, spice cakes are seen in various stages of manufacture. To refuse to partake of these dainties when offered is looked upon almost as a personal insult, an affront to the good name of the house and the hostess. And to allow a mince pie to remain uneaten after Candlemass, is of the nature of sin. Nor are the humblest cottages devoid of Christmas decoration. Every Christmas market testifies not only to the goose-eating possibility of the dweller at the English lakes, but to his demands for a bit of Christmas, that is a holly bough to decorate his home. (pp. 239-240)
(Months at the Lakes, pp. 234-240)