January, shine your light on us!
Updated: Jan 23
Text: Monika Pedersen
As the ambers of New Year's Eve fade, the New Year rolls in and with it, the tradition in Denmark of jumping off a chair to welcome the incoming year. There is a definite sense of excitement and jubilation about the beginning of another year, which one hopes will bring many exciting opportunities.
Some celebrate New Year's Day by braving the cold waters. Hordes of people gather on the banks of the bathing areas in Copenhagen or at their nearest beach to participate in a very fresh, early morning swim. The belief is that it casts off the cobwebs of the previous year and leaves the body fresh for the new one. However, this is not for everyone, so perhaps the Copenhagen parade later in the day is a more relaxing option, or if this is still too much, then a feast of a luncheon can herald in the new year.
Interestingly, January was named after the Roman god Janus. He held the title of protector of gates and doorways, which metaphorically translates as beginnings and endings. Janus is, in fact, depicted as having two faces, one looking into the past, the other with the ability to see into the future. And he is probably the 'influencer' of the new year's resolutions tradition. These intentions are well-meaning; for some, they are realised over the year. For others, the fitness drive or detox lasts merely a month, and then former routines and habits reinstate themselves!
The first month of the year brings fresh hope, despite the darkness and tendency of harsh weather conditions, with little snowdrops appearing in the ground to symbolise this renewal of energy. This is utilised in the classroom, where setting new goals or resolutions is an activity that many teachers enjoy with their students. With only six months of the year to go, the realisation by older exam-focused students that time is short is an opportunity to galvanise them into taking action and striving forward on their academic journey.
With primary school children, new year resolutions need to be practical and achievable. However, what is easier to achieve is to focus on existing classroom guidelines, such as being respectful, acts of kindness, listening, or following instructions. In addition, many class teachers have motivational stickers or point systems that young students love.
January is also a great time to teach young children that under the blanket of snow and despite the greyness, a lot of energy is being used in growth, which will emerge in Spring. A project to plant pea or bean seeds allows students to see how shoots emerge and slowly develop into plants. Many a keen gardener would support this line of thought as they plan their new garden.
"January is also a great time to teach young children that under the blanket of snow and despite the greyness, a lot of energy is being used in growth, which will emerge in Spring."
There is always a time for celebration in school. For many in the Christian world, 6 January, the day of the Epiphany, is celebrated as it marks the arrival of three wise men or kings with their gifts. The day's teaching would focus on the incredible opportunities that are before young people and encourage them to find the courage and determination to seize and enjoy them.
Later in the month, another learning opportunity intertwining history, politics, global studies, and personal social development is on 17 January, when Martin Luther Day is observed. The day honours the principles of this Noble Prize and iconic civil rights leader and his teachings of change through nonviolent means.
Be good to yourself
And the best way to live through the darkness of a Danish January is to indulge in healthy comfort foods such as delicious soups. Root vegetables are in season, so potatoes, peas, squash, carrots, and swede are excellent for making delicious soup bowls.
Along with delicious food, the other key ingredient is sleep. Plenty of sleep will keep sniffles and sickness at bay. Remember, Spring is around the corner!