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The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 15, 2018 at 7:30 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 15Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


This morning I awoke to frost silvering the grass, a clear cold sky and the stark outline of the Nantlle Ridge coal black against the paling dawn. Beautiful! What one thinks of as typical winter weather, and so it is, but winter weather isn’t always easy or pleasant for the wildlife trying to exist outside in it.

Take the bird population for instance. many of our best-loved species are under threat… from loss of habitat, pesticides and the change in weather patterns. Spare them a thought…. and more than a thought… do something to help them.

If you are going out shopping today, you might like to buy an extra gift… a gift for the birds outside your home. Wherever you live, whether it is in the middle of a city or out in suburbia, by the sea or in the countryside, there will be birds living around or not very far from you… large or small… they all need to eat. Some types of bird are required to consume their own weight in food each day just to survive.

So why not buy a bag of mixed bird seed (which will appeal to more than one type of feathered friend), or some fat balls, or nuts? (Recipe for making your own fat cakes if you prefer: I have a family of blackbirds who are addicted to white bread and (unfortunately) my holly berries! Don’t forget that birds also need a source of water and when the weather is cold and dry or frosty and frozen they can suffer great hardship through dehydration so place one or two flat bowls or plates of water out for them and if the weather is freezing, refresh the water in them a couple of times a day. Also remember that predatory cats may be around so try to place your edible offerings in a safe spot; somewhere the birds will be able to easily see the approach of a predatory animal and fly away safely in good time.

Thinking of the approaching Winter Solstice next week, you might wish to get up a Midwinter feast for your wild birds, to help mark the occasion but it is more important to provide a moderate amount of food constantly through the leanest months than have a glut and dearth.

Think about it – see what you can do – even if it is only a very little, give it to the natural world with love and gratitude… and watch the marvellous display that your gift will attract!


The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 14, 2018 at 7:26 am

Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


We all do it. Accidentally drop something… stub our toe… forget something… and then we make snide comments to our self, usually referring to our self but also about others. In doing so, the mood of the day changes. The peace or upbeat feeling of the day is shattered, the atmosphere becomes charged with something more unpleasant, and after that it is all too easy to become  irritated and continue to make increasingly impatient and wounding little comments – aloud or inside one’s head – until someone else enters the room and it can ignite into a full-blown row.

So nip it in the bud. Listen to yourself. Diffuse a potential situation before it can develop. Next time you catch yourself telling yourself off, stop and grin at yourself. We are just human. Fallible. We all make mistakes… we all do daft things… it’s part of living. But we can turn it all around… smile or laugh and shrug it off. Have you noticed how impossible it is to go on feeling cross if your facial features are smiling? Try it now. Something communicates from the physical to the emotional and can change our mood. So stop the rot in it’s tracks and generate a lighter feeling to your day.

Therefore the Advent challenge for today is to demonstrate a good temper. It is one of the best gifts that we can give to those around us, especially at this time of year when everyone is getting over excited, over tired and over stressed.

Smile when you feel grumpy. Say something kind when you feel irritated. Give someone a hug when you feel cross. Watch how differently everyone around you responds and how much better, lighter, positive your day becomes, and sense how differently you yourself feelAlternative Advent Calendar 14.

Smiles and hugs to you all!

(Now I have just inserted the Advent Door illustration in the wrong place… but for once I am going to leave it there… and I am smiling… go on, have a chuckle with me!)

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 13, 2018 at 8:30 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 13Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Beginning to feel the pressure now? Things still to do mounting up and time growing short? Getting tired and inclined to be tetchy? Then just stop for a minute. Take time to consider just how lucky you are. Yes, I said lucky. Because no matter how much work you have to do, how much preparation for the Winter holiday, how many sticky situations with recalcitrant relatives you may be facing or how great the financial short-fall in your bank balance, there is still a great deal going for your life, here, now, this minute.

Think about it. What have you to feel grateful for? Look around you. No matter how you feel, you probably have a certain degree of health and ability to achieve something good this Midwinter. And if you don’t have any relatives to share it with, then at least you don’t have to worry about awkward family members or someone causing a row. You have warm clothes on your back, a roof over your head, something to eat today… the list goes on and can become far more refined.

So for today I challenge you to think of ten things that you are truly grateful for. Write them down if you can and when you are feeling downhearted take a look at your list and focus on all the good things in your life instead. If you can, put your list up somewhere you will see it as you go about your daily tasks.

Blessings – not of abundance – but of having enough.

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 12, 2018 at 8:17 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 12Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Phone or message a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while.

You know the ones! The dear friend you are constantly making notes for in your head… oooh, she’d love to hear that… ooooh, he’d be so amused to know…. Often the people we feel closest to are the ones who get ignored because we feel close enough to leave them till last while we attend to all the other pressing ‘have to’s.

And then there is the opposite end of the scale – all the people who you genuinely enjoy receiving a Christmas card from but suddenly remember that you haven’t contacted for months – or sometimes years.

So pick up your phone… now, this minute… make that call… connect with those who really mean something to you and let them know just how much you care.

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 11, 2018 at 8:15 am

Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!

Alt. Advent Cal. no. 11


Speak kindly to a bird or animal – wild or domesticated.

It is good to remember the natural world. Our thoughts and spoken words transmute into energetic intention becoming tangible and do reach their target. Even if you don’t come across an animal in the fur or a bird in the feather today, think kind thoughts of loving appreciation about one particular living creature. Even better if you do see something in the natural world to pass your good wishes on to – even a little sparrow up in your guttering, or a late and weary  bumble bee is deserving of our loving attention. Anything and everything.

Happy days!

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 9, 2018 at 9:49 pm

Advent door 10Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Wherever you are, stop what you are doing for a couple of minutes and take a look around you. Really look around you. It doesn’t matter if you are just pottering along doing repetitive, mundane chores.

What do you see?

How do you feel about where you currently are?
Is it a nice place? Does it make you feel whole, happy, fulfilled, festive and positive?
Or does it leave you feeling down, depleted, overwhelmed, sad or negative?

What can you do to magnify the positive  aspects and what can you do to eliminate or decrease the negative effects?

Blessings to you all.

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 8, 2018 at 9:38 pm

Alt. Advent Cal. no.9Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Give Christmas hugs to everyone.

This is actually one of the nicest and most beneficial things that you can do for another person.

To be gently and tenderly held by another, heart to heart, is both emotionally relaxing and very supportive. But more than that, a hug lasting twenty seconds or more stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system which in turn acts as a tonic for our circulatory system, lowers blood pressure, reduces the physical effects of stress and a dozen other wonderful things.

So, go on, give someone an early Christmas present today – something of real benefit to them…. give them a hug.

The Alternative Advent Calender

  • Posted on December 7, 2018 at 11:19 pm

Alt. Advent Cal. No. 8Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Leave a message of loving kindness in a public place for someone else to find.

A lot of people will be feeling pre-Christmas stress really starting to intensify now. For some it will be not having enough time or energy to do all that they would like to make Christmas for their loved ones. For others it will be not having a clue how they are going to divide their time over the holiday period so that all their family and in-laws see enough of them. For others it will be agonising over the cost of the festive period. Whilst for some, it will be facing the Midwinter celebrations alone, or at least without their beloved. And so it goes…

If you are going out to the shops today, take a look around you. You simply cannot tell just by looking at people’s faces what is going on beneath the surface. So before you go, tear a piece of paper from a notebook, write a kind message on it, fold it a couple of times so it is small – but not too small – and take it with you. When you find somewhere you think someone will find it, leave it there… how about propped by the condiments in a cafe, or tucked between the packets of biscuits in the supermarket, or down the back of a seat on the bus? Somewhere it won’t be ignored but won’t attract too much attention. I’m sure that you can spot lots of good places.

You simple words might make ALL the difference to someone today… might just tip the balance between them coping, making a success of something, or giving up. There is the old saying about ‘casting your bread upon the water’ – you never know where it will end up, who it might feed… or when it might find its way back to you in your time of need.

Good luck!

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 6, 2018 at 10:35 pm
Alt. Advent Cal. 7

Door number seven

Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference:


Write a seasonal card to a neighbour.

How many of your neighbours do you know? I mean really know well enough that you could quite happily stop and have a chat to them? These days it seems that most of us barely recognise those living close to us. Some of us have absolutely no idea at all… and couldn’t care less.

Of course we all have our own busy and independent lives to lead. But these other people who live within a mere few yards of us share the air we breath, the views we see every day, the road we walk or drive down. If there is a problem with security or the environment, you will all likely be affected by it. In many ways you are all in the same proverbial boat.

It costs nothing to be pleasant and put on a friendly face… say a few cheery words… it oils the wheels of our most personal society. It enables people to then be able to approach one another with tolerance and understanding, to be heard,and hopefully, also to be willing to listen.

So if there is someone living on your street, down your road, in your block. and you have never yet spoken to them, why not write them a seasonal card? (If you aren’t sure what their spiritual/religious beliefs are, make sure that it doesn’t display specific and possibly offensive illustrations or language) and then go and knock on their door, introduce yourself and tell them that you are using this as an opportunity to get to know them. Smile. Don’t be put off if they respond with bewilderment or suspicion. Leave it at that… and then try again on some other occasion. They might think you a busy-body or a nuisance, but at least they will know that you exist!

Conversely, they might be really glad to make proper contact with someone living close by. We don’t have to be elderly or unwell to feel isolated and vulnerable. Just understanding who lives close by around us can be amazingly comforting and helps to make a micro-community within the wider one. And neighbours can do so many practical and positive things for each other: take delivery of post or parcels, hold a spare key in case you lock yourself out, feed your cat, get your washing in if it rains, pick up a couple of items for you along with their own grocery shop, keep an eye on your property when you aren’t there…

So this Christmas – reach out to someone, and make that connection – start enriching your personal community today.

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 5, 2018 at 10:37 pm
Alt. Advent Calendar No. 6

Are you up for today’s challenge? Some of you might find it surprisingly hard.

Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference:


Sing a Christmas carol.

Don’t sing? How about humming or whistling instead?

Don’t like Christmas carols? Really? Not any of them? Come on. there must be one or two tunes amongst them that you like? You don’t even have to subscribe to Christian belief – the music is lovely in its own right. Or if you really must, how about a modern Christmas song? Help us all get into the swing of things.

For those among you who do enjoy their carols, which ones do you like best? And why? They are such an integral element to our Midwinter celebrations that I wonder if we tend to really listen to the lovely melodies or even hear the words any more? Have you really looked at some of the words to even our most famous carols? Try reading them as poems or prose – not as songs – some of the story-telling is lovely and in a few – like ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’ – the words are deeply dramatic.

For me, some carols are so evocative of my beloved winter woodland – ‘In the Deep Midwinter’ and ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ being two of them. What child hasn’t at some time or other sung ‘Away in a Manger’? How many parents have proudly listened to their little offspring warbling ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ or ‘Silent Night’? Some people really get drawn into the rousing anthems:- ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’. Perhaps this is one of the drawbacks to such emotive singing; we all have a plethora of memories and emotions attached to each carol, which is why it might be difficult for some of us to sing – or even hear – certain tunes and songs… like various scents, sounds – and music in particular – resonates and encompasses such depth and variety of emotion.

Whatever your feelings about Christmas carols, just for today, give it a go – you might surprise yourself, and cheer us all into the bargain… blessings, and good luck! Continue reading The Alternative Advent Calendar…