I have a theory. (I know, surprising isn’t it?). Anyway, you know how as we move into November we start to become lethargic? How it gets more and more difficult to get up in the morning as mornings become darker and darker? How our creativity flags? How we get all stressed this time of year? How we are more susceptible to colds and flu? How all we really feel like doing is curling up in a big armchair by the fire wrapped in a blanket with a flagon of Glüwein in one hand and a good book in the other?
So, my theory is that humans were originally built to hibernate, or at least semi-hibernate, during winter months.
Let’s look at the facts. First, during cold weather our metabolism slows down, our blood thickens, our heart rate slows, we need and crave more sleep – all biological signs of impending hibernation in mammals.
In the way long ago olden days before electricity and office buildings and stuff, what the heck did people do during the winter? Nothing, that’s what. Agricultural people had no crops to tend. Hunter-gatherers had nothing to gather and not all that much to hunt.
On top of this they had a limited store of supplies that they knew had to last them until spring, so they weren’t about to expend any unnecessary energy. So, I reckon during the dark hours – which is just under 16 hours a day this time of year – they just slept. And then the other 8+ hours they just sat around the fire, chewing on some dried boar, sipping some warmed-up fermented berry juice and playing Parcheesi or telling each other hilarious stories.
They probably also went out for an hour or so every day to scrounge around for a critter or two they could slay or to wander off for a quick pee. Those that had obsessive modesty issues wandered too far off ended up frozen into the side of a mountain only to be discovered thousands of years later and given stupid names like Ötzi.
So I think we should take a lesson from our ancestors and spend our winters in semi-hibernation or “chillaxing” as the annoying young folk say, or “hunkering down” as I’m going to call it from now on since it’s my theory.
So, get a lot of sleep. Don’t eat too much. Drink warm, fermented beverages. Laugh with friends around a cosy fire. Go outdoors for a bit every day, but don’t wander off too far. I reckon our equivalent of that frozen mountainside is the mall. We could become disoriented and end up stuck there until our leathery bodies are discovered thousands of years from now under the escalator at The Bay.
 Glüwein for those who’ve never had it, is a perfect winter and/or Christmas beverage. Its literal translation is glow wine – so you know it’s going to feature the festive goodness of wine. (Also sometimes called Mulled Wine or in French it’s called Vin Chaud). So what you need is a 750 ml bottle of inexpensive red wine. Warm it up in a pot on the stove. Whatever you do, DO NOT let it boil or even simmer. That will dissipate all the alcohol. You DO NOT want to dissipate the alcohol. Throw in one lemon, (or tart orange) sliced; 2 sticks of cinnamon; 3 cloves; 3 tablespoons of sugar (or 1 ½ tablespoons of mild honey); and a dash of cardamom and/or a few slices of peeled ginger. Leave it warming on the stove for about 5 minutes. Turn off the stove. Cover the pot and let it stand for about an hour while you enjoy the insanely wonderful smell now wafting through your home. Then warm it up again, strain and serve in warm mugs. [NB: Just to be perfectly, perfectly clear – NEVER heat this stuff to the point where it’s bubbling, simmering, boiling or moving in any way. You DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT want to dissipate the alcohol. Because that would take the Glü right out of the Wein]