Happy December, friends! I do believe this is one of my favorite months of the year. The lights, the warmth, the cookies… We haven’t bought a Christmas tree yet, but once we do our house will become full-fledged Decemberland. I always let my thoughts get way ahead of my abilities. I wish my house looked like the window displays at Anthropologie, or the Santaland store from Elf. Cranberry strings! Hundreds of paper snowflakes!  Wreaths! An army of nutcrackers! A fireplace made out of paper-mâché! A lego train ride through the North Pole!

In honor of the celebratory season, I changed my banner to a sliver of this painting:

Couple Riding, Wassily Kandinsky, 1906. Munich, Germany.

Oh, my. Isn’t it lovely? I realize there is nothing really Christmasy about this painting, but somehow it still says “festive” to me.

It’s cold outside and the riders cuddle together for warmth. The leaves above look like strings of dangling Christmas lights. And the city behind them is all decked out for the holidays, I’m sure. Look at the lights. Often in paintings you see the foreground emphasized in size and color while the background gets darker, smaller, and fades away. In this one, the horse and riders are indeed much bigger–they take up a huge piece of the composition. But they are shrouded in dark colors and shadows, while the small town is a riot of brightness. The couple fades away to their preferred solitude and the city lights steal the show.

It’s my favorite part about this time of year–the lights. The days have never been shorter and darker, and they’re getting worse, but we light candles and plug in strings of twinkles to fight off the darkness. There’s something really basic in that act. I can imagine a hundred different societies and cultures doing the same thing the world over. When the days get dark, we keep the monsters away by creating light and moving closer to each other.

That’s what all our holidays are about this time of year, really. Hannukah, Christmas, Solstice. They are all a light in a time of darkness, reminding us that even though it’s dark when I get off work and I hate it, the light will come back. It’ll get better. And in the meantime, have some cookies with me while our makeshift decorations twinkle.

[For more on Kandinksy, a Russian painter who then moved to Munich and Paris, look here. I especially love the bright colors in his 1908-1909 works.]