Historical Winter Pastimes

Historical Winter Pastimes

Spiritual Wellness and Soup Making - The Original "Self-Care"

2/9/2024 | Angela Whitlock, CSRA

Historically, winter has been a time for slowing down and conserving energy. For example, in 19th century France and Russia, people slept for most of the day during the wintertime. Some would pack their bodies into a single bed to stay warm and eat less food, and some would even sleep in the barn with their livestock.  

Shifting the focus at home to incorporate slowing down and resting is what we now call “self-care,” and it can help alleviate stress, burnout, or seasonal affective disorder during this time of the year.  


To tie in the information on winter recreational sports from last week, it may be surprising that skiing and ice skating was not openly accepted among American colonizers as recreational activities, due to European influence that did not consider these activities in line with their spiritual values. For them, these forms of recreation contradicted idea of winter being a time of slowing down and conserving energy.  

Recreation within Europe was prohibited on the Sabbath for centuries, until King James I decreed non-harmful physical activity as being acceptable, provided it occurred after a devotional time. The Puritans resented this, viewing it as a blasphemous action toward spirituality and religion. As groups of settlers from Europe arrived in America, their cultures and values came with them. 

With Europe embracing these recreational pastimes, the Puritan and Quaker communities that were being established within New England and the Middle Colonies focused on simplicity with an emphasis on spiritual enlightenment. To them, spiritual enlightenment was obtained through religious devotion and an absolute sense of responsibility within work and service. Eighteenth century Quakers were especially adamant about furthering a personally insightful and spiritual-based society.  


Today, our modern forms of self-care do not have to be religiously affiliated, nor do they have to be something that subverts recreation or fun. Self-care can be as simple as taking time to slow down and be present. Wintertime is a great time to nourish your body and mind with some rest and replenishment. One way to do this is through food that is easy to prepare and does not take a lot of effort.  


A fantastic, effortless staple you can make during the wintertime is soup. The first thing that you need to make soup is stock. Making stock ahead of time saves money and takes minimal effort, but does require a lot of preparation, since you will need to gather herbs, vegetables, or animal bones. The upside to making your own stock is control over the ingredients within the stock, and you get the bonus of having your entire home smell delicious while it is cooking. You can also buy stock at the store, which saves money. Making soup is as simple as putting a bunch of ingredients (vegetables, meat, the addition of beans, pasta, rice) into a pot with stock and letting it simmer until everything is done cooking and the flavors have all melded together.  

Making soup is also something that can be easily adjusted based on individual taste. It is easy to take a basic soup recipe and change the ingredients to make various kinds of soup. Soup also freezes well, so you do not have to worry about making a lot.  

If you want to try making different kinds of soup from the past, check out this website for some ideas: https://www.victorianvoices.net/topics/cooking/soups.shtml  


Ways of shifting focus to reinterpreting spiritual wellness and nourishment into our modern life through the idea of self-care could consist of activities such as: meditation, reading, journaling or drawing, breathwork, slow body stretches, sitting with a cup of hot tea or coffee, taking a long bath, being present and existing in quiet (either indoors or in nature at one of the Champaign County Forest Preserves), or letting soup simmer all day in a slow cooker and enjoying all the smells.  


Sources for this article from: VictorianVoices.net, SamsonHistorical.com, and SlowNorth.com 

Image credit: Unsplash