The Longest Night

by Kelli Kaufmann

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If you’re enjoying The Advent Project with a child, we always recommend that you preview the artwork yourself first. But today might be a particularly good day to do that.

The sky and she were bright, blinding, secret heat and streaming, a hive,
golden, hours, a life. Her shadow: a man wanting power to have made them
or remake them, to become the source, a noose, the word, wars. With force,
tools leave a mark, scars in the bark from the harvest, history.

The son was born
on a bitter night, one
star hung overhead,
to a mother on the run,
innocent of making him.
Untended he grew certain
of his glory and owed.
Sullen as two stones
swinging in a sack.
He attacks.

She is light, gale force, the music of a swirl of birds, fruit, a shock
of grain, a lightning strike. Someone’s daughter taken, pollution,
forgiveness, a star, a witness. Sweet aching then pain, a girl blamed for the rain
or fueling the moon, her own undoing, bruises, his spoil, a garden in ruin. 

He is believed
and she is at war,
a whore, eyes shut
and silent, a shame.
Better disappear or die
where he lies, no
one would agree
he is just a man
rotting in half.
He laughs.

She is the sun at its lowest point, dead still and far away, wasted day, freezing
with grief. She turns to stone, she sinks, the last fire cools to amber, to pitch.
When she finally screams, it splits his chest, tears his hands from her. She burns,
no one’s virgin, urgent to begin, again, the new morning her own light. She’ll rise. 

The Longest Night Cocktail

Warm the longest night of the year (winter solstice, December 21, 2021) with a spiced honey mocktail or bourbon cocktail. 

Tools: small saucepan, strainer, storage jar/bottle, cocktail shaker or mason jar, lowball glass 

Spiced Honey Mocktail

  • Spiced Honey Syrup 
  • 1 chile de arbol 
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, plus more for serving 
  • 1 cinnamon stick 
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, sliced 
  • 1/2 cup honey 
  • zest of 1 orange 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

For the spiced honey syrup: In a small saucepan, mix ½ cup water, chile, rosemary, cinnamon stick, and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in honey, orange zest, and vanilla. Let cool; strain syrup into a jar or bottle. 

Spiced Honey Old Fashioned 

  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) bourbon (or brewed black tea, cooled) 
  • 1-2 ounces (2-4 tablespoons) spiced honey syrup 
  • Orange peel or rosemary sprig for garnish 

For a spiced honey old fashioned cocktail: In a cocktail shaker or mason jar, combine bourbon (or tea for a mocktail) and spiced honey syrup.  Add ice and stir (or shake, as  you wish). Strain into a glass with a large ice ball or cube. Garnish with a strip of orange peel or a sprig of rosemary. 

Sip while you watch something burn. 

The Longest Night Lantern

Light the longest night of the year (winter solstice, December 21, 2021) with a handmade ice lantern. 

  • 1 12-inch latex balloon 
  • A wire mesh colander (or some other round-bottom metal or plastic bowl) 
  • Votive candle (or small battery light source… or rage, but the battery light is probably best) 

You can use any kind of bowl, bucket, or bundt pan to make a beautiful piece of ice, but sturdy latex party balloons will make a lovely globe shape. Use the kind that could be filled with helium, they’re harder to pop. Twelve inch balloons can make an eight inch ice lantern. You’ll also want something like a wire mesh colander to help hold the balloon in its round shape while it freezes. 

Stretch the neck of the balloon over the kitchen faucet and fill the balloon with a gallon or so of water. Balance the balloon in the colander, pat the balloon to bring air bubbles to the neck and release all the air you can, then tie the neck in a knot. Place the balloon in its colander in the freezer (or outside if it is freezing) for 8 to 12 hours. You want to freeze a hollow shape with thick walls but a still-liquid center. Tap on the lantern to see if the walls are thick enough (½ inch or so)  to hold a solid shape before cutting the balloon to remove the lantern. There will be cold water that will spill out! Cut the balloon outside or over the sink. If the lantern is frozen solid, just place it under a stream of hot water to melt a spot to place a candle. Light a candle and put it inside the ice lantern (use tongs if needed to place the candle safely.) Burn your lantern outside or on a tray large enough to catch any ice melt. 

Sip something delicious while you watch your ice lantern burn. 

Kelli Kaufmann

Kelli Kaufmann is a writer who lives and works on her family’s farm in rural Michigan. She loves goats and chickens and making things—cheese, cocktails, fancy pants pastries, messes. Kelli strongly believes in breakfast.