In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
So goes the first stanza of the 1972 poem, A Christmas Carol, by Christina Rossetti, and which is perhaps known since 1906 – when it was set to music by Gustav Holst – as the seasonal hymn, In the Bleak Midwinter. It’s an odd poem in many ways, confusing the hard, cold winters of the Victorian era with the warmer climes of the Middle East and the birthplace of Christ.
But putting the religious cast of the poem to one side, that first stanza does capture the essential point that winter can be an especially hard time for all; the weather can be bitter; snow, whilst fun for some, can also be isolating in many ways; the days are short and can often be leaden with heavy cloud or dulled by freezing fog which refuses the Sun’s urges to burn itself away, and so on.
That said, even in the depths of Midwinter do come times to celebrate, to revel – if just for a moment or two – in that same snow and on water given the strength of stone as it lay sheathed in ice; to look to the end of the year in joy, and perhaps think of the coming year and the opportunities it may hold and joy it may bring. In short and despite the cold, the end of year and its association with winter within the northern hemisphere can be a special, precious time, with traditions aplenty.
Within Second Life, one of the greatest of those traditions is the Calas Galadhon Christmas / Winter setting with its two regions of snow, entertainment, ice skating, dancing, sledding, balloon tours, sleigh rides, and lots of opportunities for photograph and exploration.
The theme for this year is once again A Christmas Wish, which this year is located on the regions of Midwinter and Midwinter 2 (the region names giving me the excuse to quote Rossetti’s A Christmas Carol!). This is perhaps actually a more relaxed setting than previous years with a greater sense of an open wilderness marked by snow and bounded by woodland and off-region surround elements which add to its since of remoteness and romance; all of which all come together under the guiding hands of Ty Tenk and Truck Meredith to offer a setting with a familiar mix of time-honoured elements and new trails to wander.
Visits begin at the skybox landing point for those visiting for the first time. On arrival, new visitors are offered a copy of the music events schedule in texture form and a notecard of landmarks for direct teleporting to various locations within the regions, together with the option of visiting the Calas Galadhon website. From here, follow the candy stripe arrows across an icy landscape to where the portal to the regions awaits (if you’ve never done so before, you’ll be asked to join the local Calas Galadhon Experience in order to complete the teleport down to the ground level), where your explorations proper may begin.
Of course, the centrepiece for the setting remains the Pavilion, rich in its holiday / Christmas looks and home to the music and entertainment – check just inside the main entrance for dates and times of events, or join the Calas Galadhon in-world group for notices if you did not collect a copy of the schedule from the landing point. This sits above the giant skating rink at the northern end of the trails winding up from the ground-level landing point, allowing people to wander through the landscape, explore, take photos and find the little cosy spots indoors and out along the way by which to rest and maybe enjoy a cuddle or two.
Around the frozen waters of the ice skating lake can be found other familiar touches – the Calas Polar Express, the balloon tour, the winter lodge and the fine dining pavilion with their own opportunities for dancing. For those who prefer, there are the sleigh tours alongside the landing point to carry you around the setting. Capable of carrying up to four, depending on which you select, they give the excuse of keeping a sense of warmth and you huddle under blankets and watch the sights of the region sliding by. Not far from the sleigh rides, and at the start of the Pavilion trail, is a horse rezzer for those who fancy time exploring on horseback.
The Calas Christmas regions are always a popular destination, and avatars can place the heaviest load on the viewer, consider keeping your avatar dressed accordingly, use Bakes on Mesh, and avoid outfits that utilise multiple high-res unique textures. Also, to assist the simulators, do lighten your script load.
Also, keep in mind that because the regions are popular, you may want to make adjustment to your viewer to help with processing: reduce the maximum number of fully-rendered avatars, perhaps turn off shadow rendering, if used (other than for photography), drop your draw distance, etc.
But above all, enjoy your visit!
Note that the Midwinter estate is rated Moderate.