Top 12: The best and worst months of the year in Wales
Ifan Morgan Jones
A very Happy New Year to you, and to everyone under your roof! 2020 and 2021 may not have been vintage years for many, but it’s hard not to start any new year with some sense of hope and new beginnings.
But which are the best months of the year to look forward to in Wales? Here they are, from the worst to the best – do you agree?
I find it hard to find anything good to say about February. As someone who suffers from seasonal depression, I don’t really enjoy what is usually one of the coldest, darkest and wettest months of the year. By this point, we in Wales have forgotten how the sun looked and the feel of its touch on our skin. There may be a smattering of snow, but all the festive fun will be long gone and it will be more of a pain than pleasure as what feels like endless winter carries on.
On the plus side, the days do begin to lengthen slightly, but not long enough to allow us to enjoy a bit of daylight after the commute back from work. The wallet will still be empty after Christmas and our New Year resolutions will have run out of steam.
The only positive thing that can be said for February is that it’s short! And if you’re a rugby fan, you know that the excitement of the Six Nations will carry you through to the warmth of early spring.
And at least there’s usually pancake day at the end, if you’ve long abandoned your fitness or weight-loss pledge after Christmas. But this year that moveable feast is in March, leaving February with even less to recommend it.
Let’s face it, February is the most rubbish and I will brook no counter-argument.
The best thing that can be said about January is that it offers some hope that the next year will be better than last. We might feel a short burst of enthusiasm as we grasp whatever New Year’s resolutions we have set ourselves, or engage in ‘dry January’.
But trying to reinvent yourself during one of the darkest and most miserable times of the year can feel like a cruel joke. If ever we needed comfort food and a little wine or beer to keep us going, it’s at this time of year – running, dieting or going teetotal is the last thing on my mind, at least.
This is also the month where the wallet is empty after Christmas and the New Year celebrations. At least St. Dwynwen’s Day is there on the 25th for the romantics among us.
Other than the fireworks at the beginning of the month, there is not much that is good to say about November. It’s dark when getting up in the morning and dark by the time you leave work too. The trees have lost the last of their leaves, and they are gathering upon the ground and choking the gutters. There is a general feeling of decay and death in the air. The only rewarding thing about November, really, is that we can really start looking forward to Christmas. There are also usually some worthwhile things to watch on television as well, since everyone is indoors.
October is a month that divides opinions like no other. This is the favourite month of many who enjoy the clear, cold days, and the beauty of the leaves as they change colour. There is also the most divisive holiday of all, Halloween, at the end of the month, for those who are happy to have children knocking on their doors after dark. However, for many, it can be a depressing month. Any hope of the last glimmer of warm summer days are now gone, months of darkness and cold stretch out before us, and changing the clocks at the end of the month means it gets dark shortly before 5pm – a nasty shock to the system.
The first ‘not too bad’ month on this list. The children may be back at school, everyone is back at their desks at work, and by this point, summer is well and truly over. However we do often in Wales have a little ‘Haf Bach Mihangel’ in September, and the weather is often better than in August. And although the days are starting to noticeably shorten, it is still light enough to get out and enjoy after work.
We very often think of September as a part of autumn but very often in Wales it’s a little summer bonus extension – according to the Met Office it’s only half a degree colder on average than June.
April is a bridge between the harshness of winter and the better days of late spring. This is when the days start to get longer, buds start to burst, and the month usually ends in a much better place than it started. You will, at some point, probably see the sun again amid all of those rain showers.
This is a hopeful month and the highlight is the two week school holidays. The perfect time to escape for a vacation somewhere abroad where it’s already warm enough to jump into a swimming pool. Also, Easter eggs.
The 1st of March is no doubt the best national day possible, because it comes right at the start of spring when there is a real sense of hope and new beginnings in the air. It’s very hard not to feel jolly when you see the heads of the daffodils rise out of the ground and you know that the long slog of winter is finally over.
The kids are allowed to dress in their cute traditional Welsh costumes. Things will start happening in the garden. The clocks change at the end of the month and all of a sudden it doesn’t get dark until seven o’clock. If you did have a New Year’s resolution, March is the best time to start – not in the dark and cold of January.
Unfortunately, our Welsh ancestors were right to name this month ‘Gorffennaf’ – ‘the end of summer’ – as it becomes apparent about halfway through that any dreams we had of sunbathing under cloudless skies in Llangrannog or Dinas Dinlle were just that. We live in Wales, after all.
It’s also the start of the school holidays – great for the kids, but can be a headache for the parents!
July but with some residual hope of a decent summer still intact. The days are at their longest, and while there is no guarantee it will be warm and sunny, even if it’s wet and overcast it won’t be cold. And you know that there will be at least one day, or one afternoon at least, of cloudless blue sky where everyone will rush out and all have a barbeque at once.
This is the darkest month of the year, and one of the coldest, but thankfully our pagan and then Christian ancestors devised a way of ensuring that at least this one winter month didn’t become too depressing. The excitement of Christmas is palpable, and it is the only time of year that it is considered acceptable to make a complete pig of yourself without worrying about the consequences. We are going to turn over a new leaf in January, after all!
The only problem with December is that the picture postcard Christmas we are often promised is more than often a lie – it’s more likely to snow over Easter in Wales than Christmas day, good cheer and company isn’t always to be found, and any one day would struggle to live up to the months of hype.
Summer may not officially start for a month, but perhaps our Celtic ancestors had the right idea in designating May rather than June the start of summer. Very often I have thought that summer was on its way in May only to realise that those handful of cloud-less days were the summer. Indeed, according to the Met office, May is Wales’ sunniest month on average.
The leaves have re-appeared on the previously skeletal trees, the music and cultural festivals are starting up, and the best days of the year are most definitely ahead.
The holiday month. And even if that means having to stay in Wales, as it has for almost all of us the past few years, it’s also usually the warmest month of the year. This is the month that the Welsh cultural scene is at its peak, with the National Eisteddfod and other festivals in full flow.
There is some sadness attached to the end of the month with the realization that summer is coming to an end, but that just encourages you to throw your sandals and a beach towel into the back of the car and head down to the sea to enjoy the little remaining sunshine. Enjoy!
Do you agree with this choice of the best and worst months of the year? Leave a comment below.