Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 2)

Happy Saint Non’s day!

Daffs and Welsh cakes

Daffodils, a leek, a plate of home made Welsh Cakes… and butter… the Welsh love their butter! There is nothing so delicious as a Welsh Cake hot off the planc, smothered in butter which melts into the fragrant fruit and nutmeg. All emblems of my beloved Wales.

The 1st March was Saint David’s Day, but today, the 3rd of the month, it is the turn of his mother, Saint Non, to be celebrated.

Born in the 5th Century in Pembrokeshire, Non was the daughter of Lord Cynyr Ceinfarf of Dyfed. She grew up to be a devout holy woman but was violated by lustful Prince Sandde of Ceredigion. Non became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy at Caerfai, just south of Saint David’s, in the middle of a violent thunder storm. Various versions of this tale recount how in her extreme birth pains, Non pressed her fingers into a boulder with such force that she left their impression in the rock.

When David was born, a brilliant light appeared, the rock was split asunder by a mighty bolt of lightning… and a spring gushed forth out of the ground. This beautiful clear water became know as Saint Non’s well and is reputed to heal those with mental illness.

Non brought Dewi up at Henfeynyw near Aberaeron and later they founded a nunnery at nearby Llanon together. We are all familiar with what happened to Saint David, but much less is known of his blessed mother. Later in life, Non moved on to Cornwall founding another nunnery at Alternon, where an ancient and beautiful church still stands today. However, Non ended her life in Brittany where she founded a third nunnery at Dirinon in Finistere. (Note the ‘non’ element in all these place names.)

Non means ‘nun’, and my middle name is Nonita, which is one of the Latin forms of ‘nun’. Therefore I have a double reason to celebrate today, for not only is it special to the mother of our patron saint here in Wales, but it is also my name day. People have long celebrated their name day across Europe, for they might not know the date – or even the year – of their birth, but they certainly knew their name and the protection and patronage of which Christian saint they were entitled to.

I am very lucky, for I have both birthday and name day… and my darling husband has just walked in bearing a box of chocolates for me!

Whatever your beliefs or genetic origins, I wish you all a very happy Saint Non’s Day – may she bring the nurture and support of a truly good woman and good mother to you all!

The Alternative Alternative Advent Calendar!

Making an alternative advent calendarI have a suggestion for an alternative advent calendar which is based on my book, ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ but is perhaps more suitable for children, or is something which the whole family can join in with producing and then following.

The idea is to make (or use) 24 little paper envelopes, which can be made from coloured paper, Christmas paper, plain file paper or even newspaper – anything you want. They can be decorated in any way you with too – this you can set the children  or the most artistic person in your household to work on.

Ready made envelopes can be used to save time, or pieces of paper simply folded in two and glued or sellotaped shut. I have made mine from red and green crepe paper. To do this:

  • Cut 24 pieces of paper, each 12 cm x 18 cm.
  • As in the illustration above, fold each paper almost in half, leaving a flap of around 2 cm.
  • Glue both sides together and then cut the top flap into an envelope shape and fold over.
  • Trim down both sides of envelope with pinking shears or decorative craft scissors, write a number from 1 to 24 on the front of each envelope and decorate as desired – I have simply stuck a smidgen of mini tinsel on the front of mine instead of a ‘stamp’!
  • Think of 24 things which a person can do to contribute to the preparations for Christmas, or to entertain everyone else in the household. For instance, find six jokes and tell them to everyone else; become someone’s ‘servant for the day/afternoon/an hour and agree to help them in whatever way they wish, or make everyone a hot drink… and so it goes.
  • Finding 24 helpful, seasonal ideas with which to fill the envelopes need not fall to you alone. Divide 24 by the number of people in your household and get each person to think of that number of contributions. Everyone needs to write them out separately on pieces of paper, fold them up and place them all in a bowl or some kind of container. Mix them up, and then randomly give everyone the same number of envelopes and allow them to fill with the folded suggestions from the container and seal them.
  • Then each person goes alone into a designated room – or you might wish to use the whole house! – and secretly hides their envelopes. Then the next person hides their envelopes, and the next, until they are all hidden.
  • On the 1st December, the youngest member of the family has to find the envelope with No. 1 written on the front and carry out whatever the message inside tells them to do.
  • On 2nd December, the next in age has to set off and find envelope No 2 and carry out the instructions which it contains… and so on.

Advent EnvelopesThis helps people to come together, share and makes sure that everyone is included, regardless of age or ability. It also helps to start slowly building the excitement, encourages everyone to join in and take responsibility for organising or performing some task or function but also helps to take a little of the focus off Christmas Day and spreads the activity, enjoyment and fun over the whole three weeks.

Many variations may be experimented with: each envelope may contain a joke or a quotation, or a riddle or the clue to a large crossword… whatever you can think of, so long as it is something everyone can join in with and enjoy the results of.

There is still time yet to get something organised before the 1st December on Tuesday – and it won’t cost a thing, except a little time and thought.

If anyone would like to try this out and then let me know how they get on, I would be absolutely delighted to hear from you. We as a family shall be using this idea for our ‘Advent Calendar’ this year.

Good luck – have fun!

Where Is Your Centre?

Fire and HearthIt is an extremely grey, wet, stormy afternoon in deepest autumn. With a second ‘lockdown’ just begun, the road outside is totally deserted. I have just popped into the dining room to look something up in one of my recipe books and am sat in a chair by an cold,empty, ash-filled grate. We do not light the fires in all the rooms every day and are gradually changing over to enclosed log burners anyway, but it seems a very chilly and sad prospect.

The hearth and living fire has always been the heart of my home ever since I can remember. This is traditionally the focal point of any room, where everyone comes to, warms themselves at, sits around, huddles up to, talks by, reads or sews besides and rests while they watch the T.V. or listen to the radio. When the flames dance brightly the whole room is brought to life. When the fire is out – as it is now – the room dies and becomes hollow, empty, soulless.

Where is the centre of your home? We all need a centre to turn towards, to make for, to represent having truly arrived. Perhaps it might be your favourite chair, or your kitchen table, or the corner where your television sits? The problem with making the television your focal point is that, although it constantly depicts humanity, it is, in itself, essentially dead. Wherever you decide, perhaps you need to enliven it further – stand a couple of house plants in that same corner, and add a candle or two (but not too near to the plants as they fear fire).

What other ways might you depict and furnish the centre of your sanctuary with? Photos of friends or family, perhaps? A stack of your current reading? Bag of handiwork… radio near to hand… biscuit barrel close by? (Naughty!) Think about it this damp, wild day while so many of us are shut in and thrown back upon our own resources, and decide where the centre of your home is and how you can make it even more welcoming and cosy, both for yourself and for others.

I also understand that, for many of us, it is the people who we are closest to who truly make our home the haven and comfort it is… the company, the spark, the support, the laughter… the understanding when there is tears. And perhaps some of you dear souls out there will have recently lost loved ones.

To illustrate just what I mean I will finish with a poem which I wrote after the death of my mother 16 years ago, when the cottage was standing empty and neglected due to my father’s illness when he came to live with us. That was an empty cold dining room too…

Sitting in the creaking chair I look around – you are not there;
You with your funny marvellous ways – only the ‘ghosts’ of ‘yesterdays’.

The room is dark, the hearth grown cold, candles guttered, lamps well out,
China dull and silver tarnished – I blink my eyes and turn about…

Laughter, warmth and dancing flames, steaming food and boisterous games;
Companions close in evening light, enwrapped in love against the night.

But night has come and entered here. Such times with you are now long past.
The group is scattered far and wide; for good or ill no time can last.

I shake my head to break the rays of dancing lights from other days.
Ashes cold – the hearth unswept, this then is death… and I have wept.

SO – bring new life into your home, your daily routine. Do not despair. Look forwards to new beginnings and leave the past where it belongs, in fond memory, but don’t allow it to pollute all the good things which you have now… this day.

With my love.

Walking With The Goddess in May

Beltane BranchesAt this troubled and challenging time of Covid-19, you are perfect for the task of helping to get us all out of this frightening mess… you are exactly the person we need to help heal us… you are the one who will be able to bring changes about and reorganise our society into a ‘new normal’ which is far superior to our old ‘normal’. We don’t want the old normal back again – it was never very good for us or the rest of the planet – we need to take all that is of worth bravely forward into a new and promising future. And for that, we need YOU!

Some might gain insight and strength from my monthly online module of Walking With The Goddess. For May, the focus is on early summer and the element of Air and the importance and inspiration which it brings into our lives. It is this profound necessity of our lives which is under threat now from the pandemic – the literal ability to draw breath into our bodies to sustain our lives. Journey into and with the wind… venture within yourself and seek out and experience your own intimate centre of love and compassion… and how you might use your truly wonderful, loving self to bring courage and healing to everything around you and to form a beautiful new world.

We need to take a deep look at ourselves and our relationship with All That Is around us. We need to seek the positive qualities within ourselves and nurture and use them to contribute towards forming a brave new world for ourselves and everything else which exists with us on the planet. To aid us in this, there is a journey to the god, Bran, mythical Guardian of The British Isles, and his sister, the gentle goddess Branwen. I know that you are up to the task because you are alive, now, in the year 2020 – therefore you are definitely equal to the challenge, whether you feel it or not.

We are ALL needed in the task ahead of us. We are all vital to achieving what must be done. We all need support and encouragement. This is what Walking With The Goddess brings to you. The Earth does not wish to punish us or annihilate us… but she needs us to find a different and better way of being which will care for and promote the well-being of all Life here and to this end she is prepared to give us all the support she can.

The approach and information which is contained in these monthly modules has been channelled from beautiful, wise sources. I offer each month – with unlimited support and back-up from me, and the opportunity of connecting to others who are taking part – for the very modest fee of £5… and even that is negotiable in these financially difficult times; just contact me and we can come to an alternative arrangement. Reach out. Do it today.

We are all broken in some way, but we are all capable of finding ways of mending ourselves… and each other. Whether you roll into action of your own or other alternative volition, or whether you take the plunge and seek guidance and support via this course is not important – just do something – our future is in your hands.

Dear readers, you are amazing and beautiful and all that is needed. May you all be well and healthy, brave and positive.

With my love.

How To Offend A Toothbrush

Gillian Spring EquinoxThis morning on Facebook I saw this very question. One lady was sad that the usefulness of her long-lasting toothbrush had finally come to an end and she didn’t want to offend it by using it to clean anything else before finally disposing of it. Another lady wanted to know how on earth you actually offend a toothbrush? I would have liked to answer her at the time but couldn’t stop to do it then – however, the druid in me can’t let it go – so here is my answer – see if you agree with it or understand what I am talking about. There are actually two ways in which we can ‘offend’ an inanimate object.

Firstly, everything resonates with energy – scientifically proven fact. Mental thoughts, spoken words and emotions also have vibrating energies – also scientifically proven fact, as illustrated in the many research programmes involving plant life and how it responds to certain actions being performed near to it or various emotions and/or thoughts being directed at it… sometimes from hundreds of miles away.

I acknowledge that a toothbrush is an inanimate object rather than a plant which ‘lives’ but it will still resonate with energy and still be subject to thoughts, (and the intentions they contain), so at some very low level of resonance it will react to the unharmonious thoughts being directed at it while its owner/user is contemplating throwing it way or otherwise destroying if.

For those of a more

Read More

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Advent candlelight in the dining room

Advent candlelight in the dining room

I hope that you have all had/are having a wonderful Midwinter/Christmas?

This Advent got off to a cracking and early start with my trip to Germany and the amazing Christmas markets – not to mention lots of time spent with Holger’s family. I have also been invited to more Christmas parties and gatherings than ever before. It saddens me a little that everyone celebrates Christmas in Advent and then, after we get to Christmas Day, there is nothing left to do. All the lovely carols and Christmas music played on Classic FM radio stops abruptly after Boxing Day and people start to talk about taking down their decorations. Some of our decorations were only put up in the last days before the Solstice. Perhaps it is because many put their decorations up so early – end of November and early December? That is what I mean about people celebrating Advent rather than Christmas.

Despite my great love of Christmas, this was actually the first time I have seen a Christmas tree lit with real candles – and I have to say that it was utterly enchanting! Holger and I attended a seasonal gathering for all employees and their families where he works at Trigonos and one of the directors had supplied her own living tree, with presents waiting beneath it for all the children. In true traditional custom, there was delicious food to eat, games to play which generated much laughter and good-natured silliness, and story-telling to quieten us down again. Then, in time honoured fashion, just before everyone went home, the lights were dimmed, everyone came to sit expectantly around the tree and the children were allowed to come, one by one, to light a candle each upon the living tree.  It was magical and the children’s faces were a real picture… as I expect mine was too!

Mince pies

This is what over ninety mince pies really looks like… and I made four dozen mini pies as well!

So far, I have to say that this Midwinter and Christmas has been as near perfect as is possible… and a very welcome break from the outside world into the bargain. With my last blog/Facebook post wishing everyone a happy Christmas, I stepped back from my computer and slipped into the wholehearted loving embrace of my immediate family.

Wreath Cake

Our Solstice cake, lighter fruit cake made in a wheel shape and decorated with fruits and holly leaves fashioned from marzipan.

We had some of our friends from the druid grove here for the Solstice on the 22nd and walked up the valley into the woods which have grown up around the old quarry and gathered among the trees there. As the daylight faded, we lit a small fire and held sparklers in our hands, sharing chocolate Yule log cake and beakers of hot, mulled wine. There is always something particularly special about this one time of late afternoon and dusk. There is something particularly magical about being present in the silent woods as the daylight fades and we find our way home in near darkness, singing and laughing, slipping and sloshing through mud and puddles as we approach the welcome lights of the village. this year, two owls accompanied our festivities with their haunting cries from one side of the valley to the other. Well, we are the Cylch Blodeuwedd after all!

Christmas parcels

Gifts wrapped in recyclable brown paper and decorated naturally.

Just two days later, on Christmas Eve, we gathered around the dining room hearth to share a German afternoon tea with sugary stollen and fragrant spice cakes and chocolate treats of every kind – the fire blazed and the thirty or so candles in the pyramids, flying buttresses and holders cast shadows from all the decorations. We had just paused in our carol singing and were pouring cups of tea while Dafydd was roasting chestnuts on the fire, when a new neighbour dropped in with a card and gift and I suddenly saw us as we must have appeared to him… almost a scene from  Victorian days or a Dickens novel, ha! ha!

This year, more than ever, I have really tried to follow my own growing beliefs about the preparation for Midwinter and Christmas celebration, although seem to have had even less time in which to do so. I made my own crackers for the Christmas lunch table (in which I placed sweeties and questions to ask one another around the dinner table rather than silly gifts which no one wants). I have  made some ‘fortune crackers’ for our New Year’s dinner table too, in which I have written ‘words of wisdom’ for 2020 and jokes to give us all a laugh and start us off on a jolly note! I made some of my own gifts too – hideously late finishing them and the evening of the 23rd saw me sat with my sewing basket expeditiously stitching away.

Fur hat and scarf

One of the winter fake fur hats and scarves I managed to complete.

I didn’t get everything made that I would have liked to, but at least I completed everything that I had started and everyone received something from me. We also tried out having a ‘pledge box’ for the first time ever and ended up opening it as a completely separate activity on Boxing Day (26th December) while we were having afternoon tea. Some very interesting and worthwhile pledges came out of that little box which was decorated and left in a prominent place in the hall a few days before the Solstice. It also struck me as so appropriate to open a pledge box on Boxing Day, when the apprentices and poor of the parish used to be given tips or alms for the year in boxes which had to be broken open.

As a family, we celebrate most of the twelve days of Christmas, which only come to an end with Epiphany on the 5th January. We actually only had our official Christmas Dinner on the 27th December, when close family and friends could join us and we could all celebrate together. I actually opted for the longer version of the meal this year, although as I juggled seven pans across the top of my aga and four roasting tins inside the ovens, I began to seriously wonder if I had finally bitten off more than I could sensibly chew! We began with chicken liver pate (with an avocado pate option for the vegetarians among us), followed by squash, coconut and ginger soup. The main course was roast turkey, sausages and chicken rolls with sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce and red currant jelly with all the vegetables and two kinds of gravy – vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The vegetarian main was a selection of winter vegetables from the garden, roasted and then folded with cheese into a wreath shape made from triangles of croissant dough, which is the lightest and butteryest dough imaginable! There was Christmas pudding to follow, served

Drawing Room

Our (smaller) Winter Tree in the drawing room

with sweet white sauce and dollops of rum butter. Dafydd ‘fired’ the pudding with ethanol from his herbal dispensary… pretty blue flames licked around the dark fruity globe upon the china platter until the tall sprig of holly stuck in the top also caught fire and everything then had to be quickly extinguished! A cheese board, mince pies, fruit, candied fruits and chocolates followed along with a tray of coffee, but these we took with us into the drawing room and gradually picked away at as we opened even more gifts from beneath our Winter Tree… in fact, we were still grazing among the remnants of our ‘Lunch’ at eight o’clock that evening!

This past few days, the games cupboard has also been raided and Holger and I have challenged each other to some games of draughts which I used to play with my father when I was a child but haven’t played for well over fifty years. I no longer had my original board and set so earlier this year I ordered a new one over the Internet – the toy shop in Caernarfon could only supply me with cardboard and plastic – so I found a lovely wooden board which folds into a box in which to keep the wooden draughts, chess and backgammon pieces. Needless to say, Holger won most of the games!  Holger and I went to the cinema one evening to see the new Star Wars film, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, which I thoroughly enjoyed but found FAR too loud and had to watch some battle scenes with my finger stuffed in my ears!!!

And no, life isn’t quite so perfect… we found that mice had found their way up the wisteria into our loft and chewed a few of our seasonal decorations – the tallest section of wisteria was immediately removed! And our oldest feline member of the family (just turned twenty!) chose this Midwinter to make her journey and pass over into the Summerlands. But these are all a part of on-going life too…

Solstice fire Now it is New Year’s Eve. We might have a small bonfire out in the garden this evening to celebrate, weather depending. Wherever you are and however you might be celebrating this incoming new decade, I hope that you are well, comfortable and at peace with yourself and the world around you.

A very happy New Year to you all… as always, with my love.

Politically Correct?

November Day

Sprinkling of snow on the mountain opposite my living room window this time last year – today everything is very green, wet and windy… but when it comes to a question of black…?

If the use of the word ‘black’ is now seen as politically incorrect (as in the instance of Saint Nicholas and his companion, Black Peter, in the Netherlands), how come everyone is now being allowed to use the term ‘Black Friday’?

Personally, I think that disallowing the use of the word ‘black’ is quite ridiculous and actually draws unnecessary attention to colour prejudice and highlights the problem rather than the reverse. I am not here to debate this question – simply asking why one reference to an ancient custom is no longer allowed (when it harmlessly had nothing to do with race) but is allowed when it concerns making lots of money.

I view Black Friday as very black indeed – appealing to the most base instincts, responses and emotions of humanity – avarice, greed, selfishness, arrogance and acquisitiveness not withstanding.

I love to give. I am delighted to say that on Black Friday, we actually gave away, not fifty, but seventy-six electronic copies of the ‘Alternative Advent Calendar’. I hope that all the recipients enjoy our gift to them and get a lot of fun, satisfaction and pleasure from them.

Meanwhile, it is a very blustery, stormy morning here, although not as cold as it was this time last year as the photo above illustrates! It is the second Sunday of Advent and, as I was in Germany for the first Sunday of Advent, this afternoon I shall be making my wreath and as a family we shall be sitting down by the fire and singing carols around the two lit candles.

Blessings of peace and anticipation to you all – have a really lovely day!

A Merry Midwinter Workshop

Candles Trigonos Library

Building the magic in the library

What a marvellous day I had with the Merry Vegan Midwinter workshop group at Trigonos last Sunday!

The centre is only a couple of miles from my home and they stock both of my books (as well as various other crafty bits and pieces like my ubiquitous fir cone gnomes) It was while I was checking numbers and signing a few copies which had slipped my attention that a lady entered the room. It transpired that she was part of another group staying at Trigonos that day; a yoga teacher who had bought a copy of ‘Merry Midwinter’ the previous year and used it to suggest seasonal topics for her classes – and now she was about to do the same with ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’. Of all the ways I imagined ‘Merry Midwinter’ might be read and used, I never could have envisaged that it might be used as a focus for yoga!

My group spent the morning in the main meeting room making traditional decorations from natural evergreens and other locally foraged items. We began with the Welsh New Year calennig: an apple – representing the world – with three wooden legs – representing the trinity – topped by a red candle – the light of the world – and decorated with holly leaves and beech masts to symbolise undying life and the fruitfulness of the seasons.

Workshop Display Table

Examples of some of the things that were made – and my books, of course!

Then we moved on to constructing a fir cone gnome, by which time, I felt that everyone had deserved a break and we all enjoyed a mug of hot spiced apple and other fruit juices which had been slowly warming on a hot plate. After that it was down to the really serious business of making door wreaths or kissing balls which were constructed from hoops of living willow and then had lengths of bay and holly tied around them, decorated with bunches of ivy and other red-berried sprigs.

Main Meeting Room, Trigonos

The Main Meeting Room at Trigonos, set up and ready for the morning’s activities – the large piles of cut holly, bay and ivy are behind the camera!

Three hours for such a workshop might sound interminable, but it always flies by. The look of stricken panic on everyone’s faces once I announced that they only had half an hour to complete everything was almost comical, but they thankfully all managed to finish what they had set out to do, producing some beautifully individual decorations full of character and the very essence of wild Midwinter life brought within. Burnham Woods had come to Trigonos earlier that morning, but it was more like Burnham copse that we packed back into the car to take home again!

Meanwhile, Lee, my partner in organising and delivering the workshop, had been beavering away in the kitchen with the rest of the Trigonos catering team to produce a sumptuous three course plant based Christmas feast for our lunch. The dining room was lit by soft wall lights and candles… tea lights, ivy and fir cones  and colourful tiny camels decorated the long table around which we all sat… the warmth and scents of hot savoury food were tantalising.

We started with roast squash, coconut and ginger soup which was thick and smooth and steamingly delicious. The main course was parsnip, chestnut and rosemary roast accompanied by creamy Potato Dauphinoise, pan fried Brussels sprouts and kale (the deep green, red and darker colours of which looked like a glorious Christmas table decoration),  mini Yorkshire puddings, heavenly Christmas gravy and fresh cranberry and orange sauce. Our dessert was hot chocolate and orange brownie cake topped with mulled berries and cool dollops of vegan fromage frais.

The first part of the afternoon was spent with Lee giving a cookery demonstration of how to make some of the dishes we had just eaten. Perhaps I am beginning to feel my age a little but I was quite relieved that I could quietly retreat to the library where everyone was due to come together for the last activities and the close of the day. Softly I trod around the peaceful room, setting out my candles, standing my little musical Christmas Tree on a small table, replenishing the blazing fire with more logs and placing a plate of vegan flapjack ready to offer to everyone, just in case they still had the odd empty corner left after our amazing lunch The clock ticked quietly, the logs occasionally repositioned themselves in the grate on their bed of glowing ash, the candle flames winked and danced.

Library, Trigonos

An oasis of warmth, calm and cosiness!

Once we were all together once more we began to discuss how one might satisfyingly achieve an authentic Midwinter/Christmas celebration – or, in fact, any celebration – without killing oneself with the effort. (Watch this space for more ideas on this!) I had handouts and a questionnaire for everyone to fill in – not the usual ‘feed back on the event’ kind, but questions as to how people might really wish to celebrate the Midwinter season and how they thought they might achieve it… who they might ask to help them… who they might extend hospitality to this year, and so on.

As dusk began to fall outside the big bay windows and the mountains were swallowed up in the darkness of the late November afternoon, shadows pooled in the corners of the room and fire and candle light became softly prominent. I handed round the alternative carol sheets and we began by tentatively trying out one for ‘Mother’s Night’ on Christmas Eve, sung to the tune of ‘Silent Night’. As we reached the last verse, Lee’s partner, Jane, came in through the door bearing a large tray of steaming mugs of hot chocolate. The flapjack was also now shared around. In much more vigorous voice we next sang my dear friend, Jackie Worcester-Box’s alternative words to ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’.

Time was getting on and I was aware that some people had a long journey home ahead of them, but when I asked if they would prefer another one – or two – carols, or me reading an extract from one of my books, there was a resounding cry of ‘All of it!’ Lee and Jane also now joined us and I spotted my husband sitting quietly by the door. We set off with a roof-raising rendition of ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Druid Folk’ (to the tune of ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’ and ended with a slightly quieter version of ‘We Three Gifts’ (‘We Three Kings’) which focuses on the elements of the natural world and how blessed we are by clean air, fresh water and good earth.

Everyone calmed down as I began to read about collecting evergreenery when I was a child, and our annual walk to Bessie’s farm to cut holly with red berries on it. But people still seemed loath to leave and there was a great deal of chatter, laughter and hugging before we all finally dispersed.

I feel that if I can help to clarify – or in many cases, rekindle – the love of celebrating Midwinter and Christmas, then it more than recompenses and validates my work…  my job is truly done.

Black Friday… All Month?

Vase of hollyStand up and make a difference! Rebel against consumerism! Do not fall for tacky sales techniques. Many years ago, I was told by a very successful businessman that the way to generate sales and boost profits was to raise the price an item and slap a ‘sale’ sign on it. Trading standards wouldn’t allow it these days? Don’t you believe it. Our clever sales teams have become craftily adept at manipulating our perception of reality.

This last few years I have been deeply concerned that we, here in Britain, have decided to follow in the U.S.of A.’s ill-considered footsteps and have a Black Friday commercial jamboree all of our very own. In fact, when I first heard the term, I hadn’t a clue what was being referred to. Sadly, I should think that everyone is now very well aware of exactly what Black Friday is.

Unfortunately, it no longer refers to merely the day after Thanks Giving (which in America usually falls on the fourth Thursday of November). No. Now we have sales going on all through the month which are generically referred to as Black (no longer politically correct) and on any day of the week for all the weeks in the month.

In America, Black Friday falls on the 29th November. Today on Amazon, I distractedly noticed that there was a clock counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the start of their Black Friday sale tomorrow, (the 22nd).

I have an alternative suggestion to make. It involves a cardboard box, a sheet of plain paper, some scissors, a pad of paper, a pack of envelopes, a tube of glue and a set of coloured pens. On the first day of December, get your family together and present them with all of these items. First they have to cover the box with the paper. Then they need to cut a postbox-shaped slit in the top of one side of it. If they wish, they may then decorate the outside of the box with the coloured pens – make it more festive or personal. Then they can all decide what they would like to do for one another… instead of giving gifts this year, everyone can give something of themselves… their time, their company, their commitment to do something for someone else, even their commitment to do something for themselves which will effect everyone else favourably (like giving up smoking or refraining from being  untidy or inconsiderate).

Everyone writes their promise or pledge on a piece of paper – decorative script can be employed, poetic words may be used, the coloured pens may come into play again to illustrate or decorate the pledges. Once all the pledges have been written, they are sealed in the envelopes and ‘posted’ into the box which is then placed under the Christmas Tree ready for the 25th December.

Some might be funny or facetious… others might be very sincere and beautiful… to make it work, everyone has to join in and play the game AND stick to what they have written – really deliver what they have promised to do for someone else.

Apart from the initial outlay for pens, paper, envelopes and glue, no money is required. Any competitive spirit will be subverted in to ingenuity of a totally different kind and have possibly far-reaching consequences… consequences which will certainly last a whole lot longer than the emotional response and disappointment which the millions of unwanted gifts that are given each year must surely generate.

Let’s make this a really positive Christmas.

Christmas gift shopping? Sorted!

This winter, instead of having a spending spree celebration, make it a spending free celebration!


That Time Of Year!

Christmas Cards

Writing my Christmas cards at the dining room table yesterday – a lovely, sunny, winters afternoon.

Yes, it is that time of year again… time to write my Christmas cards! Some people love it but many seem to have negative feelings about this seasonal task. I hear complaints about the cost… the feeling obliged to send them… the environmental issues of using so many trees to make the cards and then the pollution involved in transporting them to their destinations. But there are some positives among all these too.

It may not surprise you to know that I love my Christmas cards. They are one of the most important features of Christmas for me. In this automated, electronic age, I relish being able to still hold something – touch it while I write it – that the recipient is going to also soon hold in their own hands – no matter what part of the globe they may be living on. Similarly, I adore receiving cards in return… saving them up until two or three days before Christmas to open with the family, and hearing all the news, reading the enclosed letters and messages and, yes, touching the paper that my loved ones have also held with their hands. It almost feels like we are holding hands together across all the time and miles… our cards unite us.

Which is why, when I write my cards, I try and take my time. I am as busy as the next person, but it is important to me. I write a message which I genuinely feel for the person I am addressing, and once that is done, I lay my hands across it and ‘charge’ it with some positive thoughts and feelings like love and light.

If you are only writing your cards – or doing anything else – because everyone else is doing it, then stop! Don’t do it at all. ‘Have to’ and other people’s expectations are not nearly a good enough reason. You need to mean what you do – and enjoy it too. Otherwise it is an empty gesture which benefits no one.

No matter how many or few cards you wish (and I use the word advisedly!) to send, stop and think about what you really want to say to the person you are writing the card to. What would you say if they were standing in front of you? If you could say anything at all that your heart desired, what would that be? That is what your Christmas message should be – that is exactly what you should write. These days there is a lot of talk about authenticity; in this case speaking our truth and  expressing ourselves – our feelings – authentically. So do it.

If what you would truly like to say to this person is not nice…is  offensive… insulting… then you shouldn’t be writing a card to them at all. So don’t. But on reflection, it is the time of year for putting aside your grievances – can you not find it in your heart to wish them well anyway? We all have challenges, emotions, misguided good intentions … and make mistakes… how about giving the gifts of generosity, second chances and benefits of the doubt this year? Forget the expensive presents. Give something which really means something and will have a positive, beneficial effect into the new year ahead.

As for the environmental impact of the production and transportation of so many millions of cards, let us get this in perspective. Look out for environmentally friendly cards to buy – not just the paper production but there are also options to use less toxic dyes and colours too – and lobby for them to be used at other times of the year. When all is said and done, when one considers just what quantity of unnecessary goods we rape the riches of the Earth to manufacture, why pick on the innocent Christmas card? When the good feeling, friendship, healing and love which they annually carry all around the globe is weighed against their production, I would suggest that it really is worth it after all.

I understand that I will probably never know most of the people who read my blog posts. But, hey… you… yes, it is you I am talking to… my sincerest wishes to you for a marvellous Midwinter, a very happy Christmas, and a wonderful winter in general… With my love.


Page 1 of 2

Contact Us | Privacy Policy & GDPR |

Copyright © 2018 Gillian Monks.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén