Literature is rife with metaphors and imagery derived from the seasons. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” writes the Bard of his lover in one of his best-known sonnets.
“To what purpose, April, do you return again?” asks Edna St. Vincent Millay of the spring season. In “Summer Shower,” Emily Dickinson imagines a necklace made out of raindrops.
But about winter? What does winter represent in literature? The gloomy landscape and cold air that the word conjures up in the reader’s mind make way for a treasure trove of creative inspiration. Below, we discuss the symbols, metaphors, and other figurative aspects of the word “winter.”
What Does Winter Represent?
The winter season signals the end of the year and the death of summer. So, writers and artists tend to use winter to represent some of life’s painful experiences, like solitude, death, grief, and depression. However, because winter ushers in spring, it can also bring messages of rebirth and hope.
Representations Of Winter In Literature
For example, let’s take a look at this couplet from the sonnet “The Passionate Pilgrim” by William Shakespeare:
Youth like summer morn, age like winter weather;
Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare.
While Shakespeare uses summer as a simile to illustrate the activity and brightness of youth, winter is contrasted as a simile for the silence and solitude of age.
But “In Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost praises the beauty of winter and mourns that he cannot stay behind to admire it, writing of its “easy wind and downy flake”:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
What Is Winter Associated With?
Winter is not exactly the cheeriest season. Not only is it cold and mostly dark, but it also feels harder to get things done when you’re shivering. But just like all those layers you don during the coldest time of year, there’s much to uncover when you think about the symbolism of winter.
Because even though the trees are bare, new life is slowly forming in the dark.
This is why winter, for many, is a time of reflecting on the year that is coming to a close. But although you might look back on your fond memories sadly, you know there is the spring to look forward to. So winter becomes a way to be grateful for the death of an old you and the emergence of the new you.
What Does Winter Mean Spiritually?
During the winter solstice, it is believed that the sun goes through a symbolic death and rebirth. It’s also when the longer nights start getting shorter. This is why self-examination comes so easily during the winter, inspiring positive change, inspiration, and new ideas.
This reawakening propels us to face our challenges with renewed vigor and hope, seeing them as the pathway to the symbolic spring of our lives.
Enhanced creativity is another potent spiritual aspect of winter. The silence of winter lets you dive into your own mind, free of distractions. It’s easier to concentrate on the benefits of introspection.
And of course, no matter what religion you belong to (or none at all), the festivity of winter is undeniable. It’s called “winter cheer” for a reason!
What Is Winter A Symbol Of?
In the opening line of the epic poem “The Seasons: Winter,” Thomson says that winter “comes to rule the varied year.” Winter stands out from the passing of the rest of the year’s seasons, according to Thomson, carrying with it a regenerative power in the wake of the death it brings.
By which Thomson means, winter does not only represent lifelessness. It embodies a unique beauty that is easily distinguishable from the rest of the seasons.
Have you ever seen the immaculate geometry of snowflakes? Or the magnificence of the twinkling ice crystals hanging onto dying tree leaves? Or the pristine softness of snow? In this way, winter reminds us of the beauty to be found even in the darkest of times.
How Do You Spend The Winter Solstice?
Scientifically, the winter solstice is defined as the time when either of the Earth’s poles is tilted the farthest distance it can go from the sun. It happens twice a year for each semester. The winter solstice is considered a spiritually and symbolically significant event in many cultures. As such, it warrants some special celebrations.
You can make yourself a winter wreath out of evergreen tree leaves, such as pine or fir. In pagan religions, such trees are thought to usher in prosperity, peace, and protection. You can choose to meditate, using the exterior calm to evoke inner peace.
Or, you could just sit back and get cozy with a hot drink and a mystery novel!
The Meaning Of The Dream Symbol: Winter
Have you ever had a winter-themed dream? Perhaps you’re wondering what it means. The symbolism of winter is reflected in our dreams, perhaps more than it is in reality.
If, in your dream, you find yourself freezing in the winter chill, you might be experiencing sadness in your waking hours. Perhaps you feel stagnant and helpless.
On the other hand, if you have a pleasant dream of winter in which you are enjoying yourself, you might be feeling positive about your future. Chances are, you’re able to see past whatever travails are afflicting you to the season of regeneration.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the traditional symbolic meanings of autumn?
Derived from the ripe harvest, autumn represents maturity and fertility. It also symbolizes transition in the changing colors of tree leaves and balance in the duration of the night and day.
2. What does NRF classify as the winter holidays?
In accordance with retail patterns, NRF classifies winter holidays from November to the entirety of December.
3. When is Winter Solstice?
The Winter solstice occurs on December 21 every year.
Winter is one of the most potent sources of creative inspiration for writers and artists, and it’s easy to see why. Next time you’re thinking, “what does winter represent?” consider the quietude and peace of the season contrasted against the season of rebirth that it ushers in. Good luck with your assignment!