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The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 20, 2018 at 8:51 am

Alternative Advent calendar 20Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


The unexpected gift.

I have already mentioned various aspects of this idea several times during the course of this Alternative Calendar, but I don’t think that it can be overstated at any time of the year, let alone at the key point in our annual cycle when giving is so prominently in our thoughts. Midwinter/Christmas is traditionally the time to give of our time, goods, resources and love. We offer selfless acts of hospitality, money, hard work , time, care and thought more freely at this time of year than at any other.

Traditionally, Midwinter has always been a time of peace… a time to lay down one’s arms when weaponry was locked away – banned – and even hostile factions could come together – think of the iconic truce between the Germans and the Allied Forces during Christmas, 1914 – they were instinctively following an ancient tradition.

We may not now be at actual war (although there are far too many places on the planet that are) but we all experience problems and challenges with people we either do not like for some reason, have had differences of opinion with in the past, or simply do not know, but in our ignorance feel wary or suspicious of.

Today I want you to extend the hand of friendship to one of these people in your life. They are all just regular human beings going about their business, like you; struggling with such challenges as illness, exhaustion, lack of money, difficult jobs, oppressive employers and difficult or worrying relatives. There is enough prejudice and hostility in the world. There is no justification for it. Be the first to activate a change… to initiate something better… to break down the barriers of ignorance, suspicion, resentment and fear.

Yes, there are some people who, for no reason… no fault on their part or yours, you simply cannot take to. That is simply a fact of life. No one is asking you to be best buddies with everyone, but that is also no reason why you shouldn’t be courteous, considerate and offer a friendly smile, word or comment whenever you come into contact with them… no reason why you shouldn’t be aware if they are in distress and perhaps, just for once, need your company, time and support.

This Midwinter, let your inner light of friendship and care shine out of you. Choose someone you either do not know or do not particularly like. go out of your way to speak to them kindly, write and personally give to them a Christmas card (doesn’t matter if they do not share your religious beliefs – we all understand something kindly and sincerely meant), or find a very simple and inexpensive gift to pass on to them – the gift of light is a really good choice and so appropriate for this time of year, so perhaps a couple of coloured candles tied with a silk ribbon? Simple but useful, appealing and topical. It isn’t the item itself, it is what it represents.

You never know, in the process you might just discover an absolute gem of a person who becomes a very dear friend.

What have you to loose? But what might you stand to gain in terms of friendship, good will, future co-operation and understanding.

Go on, give it a go!

The Alternative Advent Calendar

  • Posted on December 18, 2018 at 7:21 am

Alternative Advent Calendar 18Merry Midwinter’s countdown to Christmas with a difference!


Share a living gift.

Decide who you might like to give a living plant to this Christmas and make time to visit your local open air market or garden centre to choose one. Or perhaps you have an abundance of plants already potted up in your own garden? I particularly like to give pots of my scented geraniums as gifts, especially at this, the darkest, dreariest time of year. Fresh green growth and sweetly scented foliage brings a vibrant message of springtime, warmth, optimism and hope.

If you have a garden – or even a small back yard – you might like to plan growing some plants to give as gifts for Christmas 2019. This is really a project for the new year, but you may like to give it a thought now as an antidote to all the other Midwinter thoughts whirling around in your head right now.

Growing something from seed and watching it develop and flourish can be amazingly satisfying and bring much joy with it too. You needn’t tackle anything difficult or complicated. Culinary herbs are a perennial favourite and you can group three or four together in a broad-topped pot to make a really attractive and useful display – sage, thyme, oregano and chives are all very easy to grow (but there are lots of others too) and will happily co-exist together. When the time comes to distribute your gifts, clean the outside of the pot by scrubbing it with water and a stiff brush, allow to dry and then tie some brown (compostable) paper around the pot with a broad silk ribbon and there you have the perfect gift, all natural, useful, recyclable.

Whether you grow your own pot plants or buy them, giving the gift of a growing plant is a wonderful thing to do because it changes the whole ambience of any room or area it stands in, just as cut flowers improve and lift the mood and feeling of wherever they stand. A growing plant changes the energies around it and helps to bring us into right relation with our natural environment. They can help to balance and heal us, which is why we take flowers to a sick person.

So I will repeat, take a few moments today to think who you would like to give the gift of living growth to this week, and then have a bit of fun choosing the plant and ‘dressing’ it ready to present to it’s new owner. Remember to take some pleasure and fresh living energies from the task yourself. Who said that giving to others couldn’t bring its own rewards to the giver too?


N.B. If you are tempted to re-pot any plants at this time of year, think twice about it… they can catch cold… and certainly never pot anything up (or plant it out, for that matter) if the weather is very cold or frosty.

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.

Food for Body and Soul

  • Posted on December 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Well! That’s the Christmas grocery shopping done! On the way home the car was piled high with bags and boxes containing all manner of treats. I have to add that a great deal of it was contents for me to bake or cook into other dishes: nuts; desiccated, flaked, ground and whole; fruits dried or crystalized; dark cooking chocolate, cocoa powder, little bottles of essences and colourings… you get the idea! Yes, I deplore the consumer excesses of our western winter holiday but I also love the chance to stock up on small delicious extravagancies which often last me the rest of the year and sometimes beyond.

As we drove towards home it was still only late afternoon but already it was fully dark, a near-full moon was gliding in the clear navy blue sky above the snow-capped mountains. Once home there was then the mammoth task of transferring  everything from vehicle to house… Continue reading Food for Body and Soul…


  • Posted on November 30, 2017 at 9:37 pm
Christmas Letter

Ready to make a start…

I have just completed my 2017 Christmas Letter, with photos, to be sent out with all my Christmas cards. Now over the years I have heard many groans, criticisms and downright rude comments about the ubiquitous annual note or letter which some people include in their Christmas cards. And after reading past letters from one or two acquaintances I can perhaps begin to understand why… but I have to add that they have been very few and far between.

I love receiving letters in my Christmas cards – even a few lines hastily written on the inside flap are gratefully appreciated. Nor do I carelessly rip open the envelopes and briefly scan the contents as they arrive through the post. As a family, we have a ‘post box’; a cardboard box covered in colourful Christmas paper which I made when my son was very little. But it has become a family tradition that whenever we receive our first cards Continue reading THE GOOD OLD ‘ROUND ROBIN’!…


  • Posted on November 23, 2017 at 11:08 am

Thanksgiving Day – a quintessentially American celebration rooted in their history and culture. Yet we don’t all need to have suffered the exigencies of those first settlers, or have been born on the North American continent to appreciate the fundamental message of this major American holiday.

A day in which everyone comes together with family and/or friends, a day in which to celebrate what is truly precious in our lives and to give thanks for it. Why aren’t we ALL celebrating a ‘thanksgiving day’ of our own? Surely we all have a great deal to be thankful for? Continue reading A TIME TO GIVE THANKS……

No Hurry…

  • Posted on November 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm
No Hurry...

No Hurry…

At this time of year the main focus increasingly becomes how much we have to do for Christmas, how much we haven’t yet achieved, and how little time there is left in which to do it. Perhaps it might be better to turn the whole thing around; look at how much time you still have and prioritize what you really like/enjoy about your Midwinter/Christmas preparations. It would be easy for me to sit here and panic, saying to myself, “Oh my godfathers, I only have five weeks to Christmas Day!!!!” But I choose to say to myself, “Wow! I still have a whole five weeks? Wonderful!”

There are those among us who Continue reading No Hurry……