Hiatus: A pause or break in continuity in a sequence or activity.
Origin: mid-16th century (originally denoting a physical gap): from Latin, literally ‘gaping’, from hiare ‘gape’. Oxford English Dictionary.
We are lucky that the day after Christmas Day, or ‘Boxing Day’, is a national holiday here in UK. I am doubly lucky that my work place closes between Christmas and New Year, meaning that I won’t return until 2nd January, and so have this hiatus, this gap in time, to enjoy. It feels like an extra seasonal gift, a bonus handed out in hours and mornings with soft landings.
We don’t have a word for it in English, I don’t think, though it is part of the ‘twelve days of Christmas’, of course, for this period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. I read that is it called ‘romjul’ in Norwegian (clearly, they know how to do winter in Scandinavia), traditionally a time spent at home, with friends and family, or simply on leisure. At any rate, a time of cosy hibernation. I wonder if there are words for this seasonal interlude in other languages?
My daughter and I went to see Mary Poppins Returns last Saturday. This cinema viewing, along with the approaching new year, has reminded of one of the stories (not featured in either of the movies), in P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins Opens the Door, a chapter called ‘Happy Ever After’. The story takes place on the last day of the old year and explores a theory that there is a ‘crack’ between the first stroke of midnight by the clock (when the old year ends) and the last (when the new year begins), during which anything is possible. An illustration of the exciting possibilities offered by this ‘crack’ was when story book and nursery rhyme characters came to life and escaped the confines of their book covers.
During this time of anything-possible, the scary characters — the giants, the witches, and trolls — lost their powers to frighten, and everyone became friends — Jack-the-giant-killer and his Giant; the Queen and the Knave of Hearts; Goldilocks and the three bears… All embraced and danced in amity and were happy ever after — or, at least, until the clock struck twelve, when they “seemed to melt in the moonshine” and resumed their usual places.
In my own ‘gap’ in reality, I am making a few of my own ‘impossible’ things happen. Lately, much is being written about the importance of relaxation — and of sleep — now that some many of us have less of these in our lives. “Planned relaxation” may seem something of a contradiction, but it is becoming a realistic necessity. On 26th, my new custom was in place: bank up the fire, laze back, and read. That’s it, three simple steps. Aside from reaching for food — some easy leftovers — and feeding the occasional nutritive log into the stove. This year, I lingered over Kate Atkinson’s latest novel Transcription, which I have been meaning to read for ages, and which did not disappoint (my review is on Goodreads, see the feed lower down this page).
Quotidian chores have not gone away, but I also have made time to write again. Properly, for the first time in weeks. This has been enabled by a clear gap between home life the workplace, the latter having been particularly stressful in the past few months. I caught myself able to dash something off today, finally excited again and finding it without effort. It’s rough, a vague sketch, an idea, but it might take shape, become something. It just might.
More family events are in plan before my alarm clock rings in the true new year on 2nd January — signalling back to work, but I will make time for more of the ‘Three Rs’: Rest, wRiting, and Reflection… Not so much making New Year’s Resolutions, but making plans. A trip in late winter; a decorative change to the house; a new role at work ahead (at long last)…
And in the meantime… Enjoy a lovely Romjul everyone.