Stir it up Sunday…or any day

This coming Sunday, 22nd November, is what is traditionally
known as ‘Stir it up Sunday’.  This is
the name given to the last Sunday before advent begins and apparently the name
comes from a prayer for the day which begins ‘Stir up, we beseech thee’ (thanks
to
Elspeth Thompson’s The Wonderful Weekend
Book
for that tidbit of
information).  However, this is also
customarily the day to make Christmas cake, so I like to think that the ‘Stir
it up’ name is as much linked to the baking action as the church liturgy.  Am sure the coincidence is no accident!

This year will be the first time that I’ve observed this
seasonal ritual and I will be attempting to make a Christmas cake.  I’ve always wanted to do this and when
mapping out themes for The Fourth Quarter
it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
Alas I’m already busy on Sunday itself so it’ll be ‘Stir it up Saturday’
for me – and I’m inviting you to join me!
Whether it’s Saturday or Sunday or any other day of the week ahead, why
don’t you stir it up too?

You can be literal about the theme and make some kind of
baked goods that need stirring – whether that is a Christmas cake or another
creation.  Or you could interpret ‘stir
it up’ more broadly.  Where in your life
could things do with mixing up a bit?  

Think about your life in terms of a recipe.  What ingredients do you have?  What is missing?  Where can you get those items from?  

What about the ratios between different ingredients?  Maybe you’ve got all the necessary elements
but the proportions don’t make for an appetising whole.  What changes do you need to make?

Or is there one specific area where things need stirring
up?  What’s the wooden spoon that you
could use to do that?

Whichever you choose, whether stirring literally or
metaphorically, don’t forget to make a wish!
This is central element of the ‘Stir it up’ tradition, with whoever
helps to mix the ingredients getting to make a wish.  May all of our stir it up wishes come true,
whatever form they take.

Also don’t forget to share your reflections on this week’s
theme, including any pictures or thoughts about stirring it up, either via the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on Instagram and/or
Twitter.

We all need bonfires

Okay, so the photograph doesn’t show a bonfire.  Just shows I didn’t plan this before *last* Bonfire Night!

Thursday 5th November: Bonfire Night in the
UK.  I’m hesitant about trying to
describe this seasonal event to anyone unfamiliar with the concept because
having once tried to explain it to two New York shop assistants, I’ve become
extremely aware of what a crazy celebration it is: we light bonfires and set
off fireworks to commemorate the foiling of a 1605 plot by some Catholic men to
blow up the Protestant Houses of Parliament.
Sometimes we even burn an effigy of the plot’s ringleader, Guy Fawkes.  

It’s a strange tradition; pretty gruesome and distasteful
when you think about it in the context of twenty-first century terrorism.  It also seems to be on the wane somewhat,
pushed out by an increasing emphasis on Hallowe’en.  Yet part of me still hankers after a good
Bonfire Night get-together (this year I’m happily attending two, one on Friday
and one on Saturday – like other festivals that fall on weekdays, it gets stretched
to the nearest weekend).  I suspect that
its continuation over the years, and the reason that people still enjoy it, is
less to do with the political background and more because it fulfils some of
our deepest needs in the same way that Hallowe’en does (for more on that, see here).  It’s an excuse, a prompt, to spend time with
friends and family.  Little traditions
associated with the fire-and-fireworks element (largely food related: jacket
potatoes, toffee apples, cinder toffee) support an atmosphere of warmth,
conviviality and ritual.  We remember
these nights fondly from when we were children and want to share that sense of
joy and wonder with our own children too.

There is something quite magical about the occasion.  You huddle up in coats and scarves and
gloves, trying to keep warm through liquor or a loved one, and ‘Ooo!’ and ‘Aah!’
at the fireworks.  You write your name
mid-air with a sparkler and watch as that word, those letters so integral to
your identity, evaporate without a trace.
You stand beside the bonfire, chatting merrily to a friend, then find
yourself gazing at the flames, transported through memories of all the times
you’ve stood there before, perhaps in a different place, but still simply staring
at the fire.  

There’s something so mesmerising about the way it licks and
curls, rages and burns.  Fires draw us
closer, attracts us nearer, but also keep us away, fearful of their fierce
power.  We relate to them on a primeval
level, as our ancient ancestors must have done when their very survival
depended upon them, yet we live lives so far removed from them as a
source.  Nowadays we are as likely to
encounter fire in negative ways, such as when they tear through our homes or
land, than we are the positive – the gathering together in a small circle,
sharing its light and heat.

Where would you like to start a fire in your life?  Where could you use the power of its flames?  

Maybe you crave the communion of bringing those closest to
you in a coven around the hearth.

Maybe you need to set alight your passion, to strike a match
and let it take hold.  

Maybe you need a bonfire to burn some detritus in your
psychic garden, letting it drift in plumes of smoke up to the sky and
beyond.  

Fire has the power and the potential to help us secure
whatever it is that we need most in our lives.
And if you can work it into a fire-fireworks-food combination, then even
better.  

Happy Bonfire Night to you all x

Please do share your reflections on this week’s theme,
including any pictures or thoughts about Bonfire Night specifically or fire in
general, either via the A
Life Of One’s Own Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on
Instagram and/or Twitter.