Every year on the first Thursday of December the town of New Braunfels, Texas celebrates Wassail Fest a holiday tradition of wassailing while people enjoy steaming cups of wassail (pronounced wäˌsāl). Now you may be asking yourself “what in the world is wassail and why do people go about wassailing?” Wassail is a hot, mulled cider made with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and other secret ingredients often associated with the Yuletide and drunk from a ‘wassailing bowl’. Wassailing refers to a traditional ceremony that involves singing and drinking to the health of trees on the Twelfth Night in the hopes that they might better thrive. The purpose of wassailing is to awaken the cider apple trees to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the autumn. This year was the first time Beth and I attended Wassail Fest. To be honest, we really did not know what wassail was so I had to do a bit of research. At first, I concluded wassail was simply hot apple cider. However, I soon learned wassail is not just hot apple cider, but it is a unique drink in its own right.
This year the week of Wassail fest was unique in itself. As the weather turned uncharacteristically cold for South Texas, which is best known for its hot and humid summers rather than for cold winters. We woke up on Thursday of Wassail Fest to a cold front with intermittent rain and drizzle. During the day there were rumors and hints from the weather forecasters that we might even get a bit of snow. I did not think much of it and never imagined that it would actually snow in the San Antonio area. That evening although it was cold and drizzling we made the decision to go to Wassail Fest despite the lack of ideal weather. So we went on a hunt for our hats and gloves that were hidden in the dark recesses of our coat closet and ventured out to enjoy our first Wassail Fest.
As we arrived downtown the drizzle turned into a slight rain and the temperature continued to fall. About 45 minutes after we arrived the light rained turned into sleet and people were getting enthusiastic and saying “look it’s snowing”. Being from Alaska and having lived in the Midwest and the Eastern portion of the United States, I knew the difference between sleet and snow. So I was not impressed. But as time went on the sleet turned into small snowflakes, however, they melted as soon as they touched anything. About fifteen minutes later it started to truly snow albeit very lightly. We noticed kids and adults were shouting and laughing as they watched the little bit of snow come down. Again being from Alaska and living in the snow states of the Midwest and the Eastern states I was not captivated by this snowfall. Then a miracle happened, I noticed the snow was beginning to stick to our jackets but not only that, it was actually accumulating on the ground. By this time there was an exhilarating feeling going around as many people experienced snow for the very first time.
People began to be aware of the magical moment that was going on around us; the moment was straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie. That evening in downtown New Braunfels kids and adults who had never experienced snow before were caught up in the wonder and excitement of playing in the snow. Just as others were caught up in the excitement so were we. While this was not the first snow we had experienced in our lives, it was unique enough for us to experience the magical moment that others were experiencing around us. For us, the snow brought an additional awe as we started remembering the snow experiences of our past. We shared memories and stories with each other, recounting the first time our kids were old enough to remember playing in the snow. These were special memories and brought joy to us as we recalled those days. The only thing we lacked that evening was having our son with us, he was 6 hours away at Texas Tech University enduring a very cold but snow-free night.
As we returned home and saw our yard and patio furniture covered with snow, we were elated and were taking pictures like everyone else. What made it even more magical was up and down the street kids and parents were building snowmen. A sight I never thought I would see in South Texas. It truly was a magical and unforgettable moment.
For those of you who live in snow country you may be asking yourself “what is the big deal about a little snow which did not even last for 24 hours?” Well, the last time it snowed in San Antonio was 32 years ago in 1985. I was a junior in High School in 1985; I was still living in Alaska experiencing a “real” winter and only dreaming of a winter without snow and cold.
But this post is not about snow, it’s not about the magical evening or about an additional “snow story” we can tell one day. What this post is about is the moment. It is about the decision I made a year ago to start living my life again. It is about not simply existing in my house isolated from people and the world around me. It is about the ability to step out and take the “risk” to go outside of my comfort zone and the protection of my house. It is about the joy I experienced when I choose to participate in life and choose to engage with my family, friends, neighbors, and community. It is about my refusal to be trapped by my fears and the controlling symptoms of my PTSD. It is about you and your struggles, your fears, you need to hide, your refusal to live your life again. It is about the lies we tell ourselves: that it is not safe out there, that no one cares or understands. It is about the life robbing anger we harbor deep in our souls that keep us separate from others. It is about the false belief that we are happy and content held up in our dark and lonely houses while others experience life without us. What made Wassail Fest so magical for me? Was it the snow? That was a part. But what really made this evening magical was I choose to be a part of it and I choose to venture outside of the so-called safe haven of my house. I was there, I was with my family, friends and my community, I experienced life and it was magical.