Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Month: December 2022

Is Christmas Just for Children?

“Christmas is just for children.” How many times have I heard that said? Not nearly as often now as when I was young. Thankfully, I suspect that most of the population under the age of forty would be totally horrified if you tried to suggest that to them. Judging from the many adult themed seasonal gifts and activities which are now on offer – even if many of them are based on over-indulgence – it definitely cannot still be claimed to be the case.

Like many of our so-called children’s activities and customs, including Father Christmas, the Christmas Tree, the nativity play and carol singing, these entertainments were once an integral part of the adult social calendar with their roots in ancient spiritual practice. The celebration of Midwinter  is the marking of a solar event which has been crucially central to peoples around the globe since the dawn of time with tremendously serious implications for the future well-being of all mankind. Many religions throughout history have chosen to adopt this hugely significant event, Christianity being only the most recent.

If there is any justification at all for the claim that “Christmas is for children” it is in the fact that children best learn by example; our Midwinter/Christmas activities each year should provide all our little ones with ample demonstration of kindness, generosity and love so that when they, too, grow to adulthood, they will be able to function as caring, responsible and loving members of society.

Here is the real nub of the matter though. Are our modern Christmas activities and ethos fit for purpose in the kindly and caring education of our young? Yet whatever one’s views on Twenty-first Century society, millions of tiny, unnoticed acts of loving thoughtfulness occur each and every day and once a year, at Christmas, we are all given the opportunity to unashamedly demonstrate what genuinely lovely people we can all be. It also gives those who would never otherwise think of performing a charitable act the excuse to display the ‘softer’ side of themselves, disguising embarrassment and self-consciousness in the general melee of seasonal good will.

Who among us is willing to be thought ‘soft’ and carry the Christmas bon homie on further into January and the springtime? These days, another more frequently heard question in relation to the Christmas season is “Why can’t it be Christmas every day?” No one would actually want it to be Christmas Day every day of the year – we would very soon be utterly fed up with it! – but surely the question really appertains to the generosity and love engendered in so many hearts, which, on mass, is a potent and powerfully wonderful occurance. The answer, of course, is that we can have this every day… what is stopping you?

We are the people now grown to adulthood who’s parents made many small and large sacrifices and efforts to give us as perfect childhood Christmases as possible. In every generation there have been wars – or their aftermath – economic crises, health concerns and social challenges. Here we are again, about to enter another new year, with overwhelming social difficulties, even within our so-called privileged and secure United Kingdom: millions of people who work full time but who still cannot earn enough to adequately feed or keep themselves or their families. Others who are struggling with physical and mental ill-health; and the desperate yet ‘invisible’ section of society who live deplorable lives of struggle and hopelessness.

Isn’t it time to demonstrate that we genuinely understand the principles behind our Christmas celebrations and have learned our childhood lessons well? Share whatever little we have with our struggling neighbour? Do not simply think in terms of finance. A smile… a kind word… a friendly gesture… these cost nothing but a fraction of thought and effort and are a good start in bringing ‘Christmas’ into our every day lives throughout the other eleven months of the year.

Remember: Christmas is a state of mind and way of life, ALL the year round.

Think about it!

Merry Christmas!

Greetings to all my dear ones and friends in both real time and via electronic devices – each and every one of you is deeply appreciated and cherished.

Early Christmas morning, and outside all the world is still and quiet – apart from the rain which occasionally spatters against my window. But I know that in a few minutes, the sky will begin to pale and lighten, dawn will come and with it the end of the darkest time of the year. The Sun/Son will truly be reborn and today, the daylight will last for longer than it did yesterday… the year has turned and we are definitely on the path back to the long, light, warm days of spring and summer and of our flowering, growing season.

On this most special of mornings, I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas. Whatever your beliefs and spiritual practices, this of all other mornings in the year is surely a time for understanding, for forgiveness… a setting aside of all old differences and misunderstandings… a time for coming together,  for gratitude and community – the world community of humanity and all life – and of love.

Midwinter is a time for everyone – open your hearts and allow your love to flow out… unconditionally.

A very merry Christmas to you all!

Greetings On the Solstice!

View of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) from my window – the highest mountain in England and Wales.

Greetings, all my dear friends and readers on this, the morning of the shortest day!

We have a day full of thoughtful and joyous celebration ahead of us here in the Snowdonia mountains of North West Wales.

As a little Solstice gift, I am including a short guided journey in this post. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to record it, but if you read slowly through it and keep closing your eyes and follow what it says, you will still have a wonderful experience of Midwinter love and connection.

With heartfelt gratitude and blessings to you all.


Take three deep breaths… stretch… relax… and let go…

You are sitting beside a wide hearth on which a bright fire is burning… all the rest is in shadow… feel the heat from the flames… hear the crackling of the logs as they blaze… smell the aromatic scent of the wood smoke…

Know that here, all your ancestors have also sat… at this same hearthside you have all rested… eaten… laughed… wept… given birth – and passed away… see through their eyes and walk in their steps as they now see and walk with you, and be at one with all who you are connected to… feel that line of life and continuation…

What comes uppermost to your mind?

Open your heart to all your ancestors… to all those who have come before you… the strong, the weak, the good, the sick, the reliable and loyal, the dishonest and self-seeking, the selfish and fearful, the courageous and generous, and send out your love to them… without any reserve or restraint, enfold them all in your warmth and gratitude unconditionally…

The hearth and the fire upon it melt away and vanish…

You are in the dark, alone…

It is growing cold… bitterly cold… snow crunches beneath your feet… flakes drift before your eyes and melt against your skin…

You hear the faint sound of bells… the jingle of harness… the thud of hooves… the baying of hounds… it grows closer… and closer…

Out of the darkness a lone rider approaches… you see that it is a man, a huge fellow proudly sitting his coal-black mount… broad shouldered, barrel-chested, powerful, swathed in a flowing black cloak… his hair tumbles to his shoulders, his eyes glitter… and from his head there grow two horns – antlers…

White hounds with red ears and glowing ruby eyes mill around the horse’s legs, snuffling, growling…

Here is Gwyn ap Nudd, king of the Land of the Fair and the Tylwyth Teg… leader of the Wild Hunt of Winter…

Take courage… look up into Gwyn’s face… what do you see? … How do you feel? …

Gwyn watches you, as if assessing you… then he leans down and holds out his hand to you… take it… it is firm and warm… in one strong movement, Gwyn has hoisted you up into the saddle in front of him… and you begin to ride… you ride…

The great horse gallops across the snow, sinew and muscle straining as its huge limbs pump like pistons and faster, faster you go… you feel the icy air whistling around and past you… and with one almighty bound the horse leaps… and you take to the skies… Gwyn’s cloak billows out around you, the hounds stream out to either side and the stars come closer as you ride like the wind along the edge of the clouds…

Higher and higher you go… faster and faster… until the firmament is streaming past you in a blur of diamond glints and velvet dark skies… of rolling waves of shimmering rainbow light… and suddenly… it isn’t cold any more…

The horse slows… the hounds are gone… you come to a standstill.

What do you see? …

Look down at the Earth… what do you see there? …

Become aware of yourself… from where you were sending out love to your Ancestors there is a rosy-pink glow of light now coming from your chest… from your heart cavity… feel it rather than see it… be with it… follow the flow joyfully…

Look down and around you, and notice other pinpricks of light appearing, just like your own… there are more… and more… and more… until the whole Earth and sky is full of heartfelt light…

Heart, awakening unconditionally to Love… the Love which Midwinter re-enacts each year… the Love which the Baby Jesus and many other deities before him throughout history and all around the globe have come to represent… the rebirth of Light and the Love which it represents… and each pinprick of light is a heart glowing with that Love…

Yes, for many, that Love might be tarnished with exhaustion, worry, regrets, disappointment, bad temper, even violence and despair, but for even a fleetingly short time at this time of year, it burns clear, true and bright.

Feel yourself connect to this myriad of lights… reach out and joyously feel at one with all the other loving hearts… the soul-spirits fleetingly laid bare of their drab Earthly garb and showing what they truly are… magnificent sparks of the one Loving Divine Flame…

Remember how you are feeling at this moment… take this sensation of Love and Joy and Connection away with you and keep it warm and alive within your own heart… send it out every day to warm and heal and reconnect with everything around you in your world…

Look around you again… and see that you are once more sitting in your own chair where you began this journey…

Hear the clop of hooves, the jingle of harness and the baying of dogs growing fainter…

But remember the enigmatic being who helped to facilitate this experience for you… remember Gwyn ap Nudd with respect and gratitude…

Now go and spread your light into your world, today, and every day throughout the whole year – this is the most important task you will ever do – the most precious gift you will ever give…

When you are ready, come back into the room where you started your journey… rub your hands together… shuffle your feet… take a few deep breaths and stretch… and open your eyes and be fully present back in your life, your world.

Sugar Mice!

I have just made my first ever sugar mice! Not very P.C. as far as good diets and dental matters go, but, oh, SOOO reminiscent of my own childhood when (along with an apple, an orange and some shiny coins) I always found a sugar mouse nestling in the toe of my Christmas stocking!

These mice are not perfect – some even look a little depressed… that depends on the angle the snippets of currant are placed for their eyes… and one even has an unfortunate ‘bloody nose’ where I accidentally used too much food colouring – but they all have their individual characters and are my very own.

However, these are not destined for Christmas stockings but are going to be shared with my grove members at the Solstice – we are all little children at heart!

If anyone would like to try making them, they are really easy and quick to do – something perfect to entertain children before sitting them down with hot chocolate and a story – perhaps Father Christmas could be left a sugar mouse this Christmas Eve – make a nice change to all the mince pies he must get through!

I followed the recipe on the B.B.C. Good Food website – they are usually pretty reliable –

Very happy ‘playing’ to you all!

The Extra Ingredient

There is something tantalisingly magical about a bulging Christmas stocking stuffed with enticingly anonymous little packages, or piles of colourful gifts of every indescribable shape and size piled higgledy-piggledy beneath the glow of a bedecked Christmas Tree!

What makes these gifts so special? Yes, of course there is the obvious anticipation and surprise – even an element of learning how much someone really cares about you by how insightful their choice for you is… or discovering how much they value you by how much they have been willing to spend on you…

But what about the magic? That ephemeral, indefinable and elusive something which annually turns our Midwinter gift-giving into something so powerfully captivating that it enchants young and old alike – only too often to lead to disappointment, disenchantment and disgruntlement once the wrapping has been ripped away and the secret contents finally revealed.

Perhaps it is only fair to accept that no matter what someone gives us, no matter how much love, effort, thought and money a person might have put into our gift, it can never actually live up to our totally unrealistic and out of proportion expectations.

However, I have a suggestion to make. It has been scientifically proven that our thoughts actually become tangible and their energies can be electronically measured. So, when you are thinking about, or making, buying or even just wrapping a gift, stop for a moment and place your hands on that item and fill yourself with loving thoughts of the person you are going to present it to. If you like, charge the gift with your love.

When the gift is unwrapped, the warmth of your love will come flooding out with the contents. The recipient of your gift will never know why the gloves, book, toiletries or handkerchiefs always feel so very special and never cease to make them feel all aglow – but it will be there all the same – the extra element of magical love, invisibly but indelibly added to you gift for ever more… literally, the gift that keeps on giving.

Here is a chance to turn even the most mundane, the cheapest, the simplest gift into a treasure beyond compare!

What could be more magical than that?

Pots and Pans and Puzzlements

A simple cold supper for New Year’s Eve at the Hafod at Cae Non

Buying an electric implement for the kitchen will not automatically make you a good cook – or produce tasty food. Do not be fooled!

Every pre-Christmas, I notice that advertisements for electric accessories, tables and chairs and tableware proliferate, as if by owning these items your ability to produce perfect seasonal fare is then assured. Today, I walked into one local supermarket and was presented with a great pile of gravy boats. Do people only eat – or serve – gravy at Christmas? And what happens to all the gravy boats specially purchased other years – do they automatically vanish?

I annually ponder these vexing questions.

However, when I recently read an on-line advertisement from one of the mail order companies I deal with regularly, I actually felt cross. Here were special pans to microwave an omelette (£10), cook rice (£15), bake a pie (£35) or make soup (an eye-watering £70). Advertisers are clever and convince you that you rally cannot cook – or in any way do without – whatever item it is they are trying to sell. In these days of such widespread economic hardship, I find it in appallingly bad taste.

One omelette pan, one large soup pan (with lid!) and a collection of aluminium pie cases saved and washed from pies bought from the chippy or supermarket would produce all this food at a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, what many are short on is the know-how of what to do in their kitchen.

I fondly remember the time I spent with my mother and uncle out in Sri Lanka when I was a child. We had a wonderful cook, Rajah, who could produce mouth-watering Singhalese and Indian dishes and cordon bleu European cuisine – his main utensils were a large sharp knife, and a medium-sized fork and table spoon. At the end of every day, he would carefully wash and dry them and reverentially lay them out on a clean cloth upon the kitchen table ready for his return the next morning.

Perhaps this is an extreme example in the opposite direction, but worth bearing in mind!

Every good cook is economical and hates waste. Keep it simple. Don’t be seduced into making unnecessary purchases – use what you have got and when you do have to buy new, make sure that it is multifunctional, of reasonable quality and will last a good long time.

For more ideas on how to operate in a kitchen economically, take a peek in either of my free e-booklets, ‘Eat Cheap: Survival Strategies in the Kitchen‘, or ‘Christmas on a Shoestring‘  which can be read on my website or downloaded – you can print them out yourself or order from Amazon if you want a professionally produced paper copy (just be aware that this last will cost you a few pounds).

I feel another book coming on – nothing quite like I have written so far, but one about how to basically run a household. It has already been suggested to me several times and I am beginning to think that maybe I should give it a try.

In the meantime, as far as Christmas Dinner is concerned, don’t get too stressed out… stick to simple, tried and tested… and good luck!

My Own Little Tree

I have my very own little Christmas Tree! Yesterday, my son and his partner went Christmas shopping and came back with more than I could have imagined. Because I knew that they were squirrelling Midwinter treats and surprises away after their trip to town, I didn’t realise just how furtive they were being until after dinner when they both vanished back into the dining room. A short while later, my son came huffing and puffing into the living room declaring that something odd was going on upstairs and that I had better go and check out my office.

Judging by the daft grin on his face, I immediately knew that this wasn’t any serious situation but when I entered the upstairs bedroom which acts as my office and where I do all my writing – oh, joy! – there on my little table in the bay window stood a real live little tree, all decorated with baubles, tinsel and coloured lights! It looked quite magical.

I have been told that every bauble on the tree represents one of us – close friends and family. I suspect that the sparkly fly agaric toadstool might represent my son (who is a medical herbalist and uses such ingredients in his medicinal mixtures). Might the plump little Christmas gonk be me? I am going to need some clues to work out the rest; there is a very handsome ‘Spirit of Christmas’ and two rather charming silver nutcracker soldiers… which might my husband be, I wonder? And who might be the gingerbread house???

My darling little tree has kept me good company all day while I have worked. The mountains all around the valley are white with snow, carols have been playing on the radio, sleet and snow flakes have periodically come floating past my window and I have been generally filled with the enchantment and excitement of Christmas – or should I say Advent and pre-Christmas?

How very lucky I am! If my Christmas Day was no more festive and enjoyable than today, I should count myself truly blessed.

I very much hope that you are enjoying these magical days of plotting, planning and seasonal preparation too!


Make the Very Most of Life!

We all know that the pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives and has presented us with huge challenges. But, as with most things, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is all bad. Take my experience of yesterday, for instance.

I am a member of the committee for our local branch of the Theosophical Society. In the past, our business meetings tended to be dry, dull and uninspiring. Then along came Covid and we could no longer meet in person – a great relief where committee meetings were concerned as we could hold them via Zoom instead, and, due to the fact that there was very little happening during lockdown, we had correspondingly little to discuss.

Three years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, we let the tenancy of our regular meeting room go. Earlier this year, with life and activities opening up again, we felt that it was time we met in person to decide the future of our group. We opted to meet over a pot of tea in the restaurant of our local garden centre. Overjoyed at being able to greet each other and hug again after so long, we had a lovely meeting and all enjoyed the experience tremendously.

Yesterday, we had our latest meeting at the garden centre which was held over lunch.  First came the minutes of the previous meeting and some of the days business over cups of coffee. Then we stopped to eat – delicious plates heaped with salads and cold cuts or very tasty savoury flans – followed by more cups of coffee while we completed our meeting afterwards.

Along the way there was a great deal of laughter, teasing and fun. We have decided that we now love the new form our business meetings take so much that we shall carry on with this hugely enjoyable format in the future.

And why not? If something can be made an enjoyable treat while still getting the job done, why not do so? It is all too easy to focus on all the negative, difficult and painful aspects of life. Why not do the same with all the possibly joyful ones too? I feel that it is almost a duty for us to ring every tiny measure of happiness and pleasure out of life that we possibly can. Why leave a vacuum to be surreptitiously filled with lack, unease, discontent and irritability? Why not make up one’s mind that something is going to be a blast and stick to it?

Nor is this a selfish decision for our happiness and positivity grows and spreads like a forest wildfire. Unbeknown, our warmth touches everyone around us and they, in their turn, are affected by it and pass it on to all they meet along the way… and so it goes.

So, to anyone reading this, I call on you to begin a new movement – that of engendering goodwill, light and love through your own happiness, pleasure and contentment. It only needs you to decide that you are going to make your everyday tasks as enjoyable as possible and then do just that, enjoy them.

One of my favourite maxims is ‘Make much of little’ which is a neat way of encapsulating all I have just taken several hundred words to woffle about. Go on, give it a go – what have you to lose?


Tea and Carols

Advent Wreath Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

The church in Beddgelert dates from the early 13th Century but the religious community here reaches back to much earlier Celtic Christian times. It is a peaceful spot beside the Glaslyn river and glowed in the late November sunshine yesterday afternoon when a small group of us joined the congregation there for carols and readings which were sung and read in both Welsh and English, accompanied by the sonorous tones of the organ. At the end of the main aisle stood the Advent wreath with its different coloured candles, one for each Sunday before Christmas and the fifth white candle to be lit on Christmas Day.

There is something very special about old churches, as if their very stones have absorbed the love and devotion of the countless previous generations who have prayed their and now, like a charged battery, give back the courage, strength and love of our forebears. As always, the sounds and cadence of my Celtic mother tongue which I do not understand, nevertheless resonated deeply with me and for a brief time brought me directly into contact with my Welsh ancestors. Fancifully, I could hear their voices, and felt at one with them as the Earth once again approaches the Midwinter Solstice and the time of Christmas celebration.

These days I do not often spend time in a church and as the afternoon progressed I gradually became aware that my seat was growing warm and then positively hot. Am I unwell? I asked myself. I removed my glove and placed my hand on the pew seat next to me. Yes, that was warm too! Old churches can be very cold places, especially at this time of the year, but this marvellous building actually has heated seats.

The notes of the last carol died away and then afternoon tea was laid out for us at little tables in the North Transept where we all sat down to enjoy plates piled high with dainty sandwiches, dishes of scones, jam and cream, and cake stands loaded with sweet delicacies. We ate and drank from bone china plates and cups and happy chatter filled the room while willing helpers cheerfully passed among us wielding a seemingly endless supply of scalding hot tea and coffee.

It was also a delight for me because I now met again so many of the ladies who I have come to know over the past few months when I have visited the village to give talks and workshops. Continually waylaid by by warm greetings and hugs from so many, I never got to actually look at the little sale of bric-a-brac and gifts which were on display in the aisle – although I did manage to purchase two adorable knitted festive mice which are now sitting companionably on my mantlepiece. I later learned that the afternoon had raised over £220 for church funds.

The sun was beginning to set as we drove home past Snowdon and through the mountain pass at Drws y Coed, back down towards the sea. What a magical afternoon it had been, and how very much I had enjoyed it. Who needs lots of glitz and excitement? I can get just as much joy from songs in a language I cannot understand, loving welcome from new friends, teatime goodies and, oh, yes… a warm bum!

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