Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Last year I wrote about MR James, Susan Cooper, the Box of Delights and Mercury Rev on this day, which remains appropriate.
I’m currently ill, quarantining, and awaiting the result of a PCR test. Christmas isn’t happening around here (and who knows if we’ll have a sudden lockdown in the UK this week).
I was reading about a northern Chinese tradition similar to an advent calendar that starts on this day. It’s 81 days until the Spring, and that makes a neat grid of 9×9, leading to the tradition of Nine Times Nine Pictures to Dispel the Cold (九九消寒图 – or “nine-nine chilling diagram” as Google Translate would have it) – draw or colour a picture every day to get you through the winter.
The are also various pre-printed options available – one of the most popular is this little poem about willow trees waiting for the spring- 庭前垂柳珍重待春风 (the design on the chart runs the traditional way right to left- the squares are numbered). Each character has nine calligraphy strokes, so every day you colour in one stroke (there is a specific order to writing Chinese characters, which everyone learns at school), and at the end of the winter the whole poem is coloured.
Or this tree with nine blossoms, each with nine petals. Every day you colour in a petal.
There is also this weather chart designed as tradition coins in an envelope, where you colour in each coin following the key according to how the weather was each day.
Of course people also do their own creative projects with drawing or calligraphy over the 81 days. One that particularly interested me was Chinese illustrator Woshibai’s project- he’s done a comic poster printed like an advent calendar with doors, where you reveal a new frame over each of the 81 days. (His other comics are also well worth checking out).
I feel like it’s going to be a long, dull and tedious winter this year. It’s very likely this will be my second lockdown birthday. I’m booked to go back to Austria for work at the end of January for a while, but who knows if that will happen or not. So I decided to see if I could do my own simple 81 days of drawing project with very small drawings. I made a 9×9 grid, and printed it onto an A3 sheet of cartridge paper. You can download the pdf here if you want to do it.