Christmas moaning

Miles walked: 294                        Miles left to go: 18.5

‘Oh simple thing, where did you go?’   Keane, Somewhere Only We Know

Christmas is coming and for many people, there is magic and sparkle in the air. I don’t begrudge anyone that and I respect everyone’s right to celebrate how they wish; however, those who know me are well aware that I’m not a great fan. It’s not a miserable, miserly ‘bah humbug’ thing; in fact, I love the idea of a midwinter festival (like the Yule of old) to cheer up the dark days, a celebration of the fact that the longest night is past and – no matter how far away it seems – spring will come again.


Holly in our hedgerow

I love to bring greenery into the house, light candles and share delicious food, a fireside and laughter with good company. I believe that many of the traditions and customs, whether Christian or more ancient, are truly beautiful.


Making mince pies is one of my favourite seasonal activities.


What I really, really cannot bear are the gross consumerism and waste which more and more seem to define the season. What’s more, I hate the way it starts to creep into the shops as early as September and pretty much takes over for the next three months. Whatever happened to autumn? It is such a gorgeous season, too good to be missed.


Go Christmas shopping or enjoy a walk in the woods? I don’t have to ponder that one for long.

Am I alone in not wanting to be bombarded with tinsel, shelves heaving with plastic tat and Slade belting out, ‘So here it is, Merry Christmas . . .’ everywhere I go? Or am I just getting old?


Christmas trees?


Christmas catkins?!

For us, Christmas has always been homespun but two of the best we ever had were when our children were teenagers and we decided to do things a little differently. We put our names in a hat and picked out one each: the challenge was to create a gift just for that person with a maximum budget of £5. Cue several weeks of secret goings-on and furtive activity behind closed doors! Christmas Day itself was full of excitement, anticipation and gratitude; we were all as intrigued by others’ gifts as well as our own, knowing that with such a tight budget there had been a need for imagination, creativity and ingenuity from each of us. The gifts – just one each – were some of the loveliest and most personal we ever received: this felt like a real Christmas. (In case you are interested, gifts included a fantastic gourmet meal, a box of homemade melt-in-the-mouth French macaroons, a knitted alpaca slouchy beret and gloves, homemade bathbombs, a painted canvas, a mini-stocking full of little goodies. . . )


Origami crane mobile: a simple but beautiful homemade Christmas gift.

Roger and I stopped giving each other Christmas presents several years ago, not because we don’t love each other or couldn’t be bothered or didn’t want to spend the money: it just seemed like unnecessary pressure to go somewhere and buy something for the sake of it. We would both far rather have shared experience over ‘stuff’, anyway. Who can put a price on the fun of a winter picnic or barbecue in cold, crisp weather? (If you’ve never done it, try it – these things don’t come with a ‘summer only’ label – and barbecued food in the snow is a hundred times more delicious. Trust me. We even did it one Christmas Day and it mas magical.)


What a perfect day for a picnic or barbecue – just wrap up warm! (Thanks to Adrienne for the loan of her beautiful photo of a frosty West Sussex.)

What shop sells the beauty of a winter sunset watched together . . .


. . . or the pleasure of mulled wine and mince pies by the light of an ice lantern in the garden on a starry night?


I am interested to see what Christmas in Spain is like. We have been told that not much happens but there is certainly no shortage of Christmas ‘stuff’ and music (including English songs and carols, no Slade yet but Frosty the Snowman is going strong) in the shops. I’m hoping there might be some different Asturian traditions to experience, but we will see. I am definitely keen to try a box of turrón (nougat) which is on sale everywhere. Otherwise for our part, we will bring in some greenery (not holly, though, as it is a protected species here – the ice lantern above was one I made in France, that’s not Asturian holly in the photo!), bake mince pies, stoke the stove, cook a lovely meal and raise a glass to our loved ones.


A simple celebration, by modern standards cheap and boring. To us, perfection. Merry Christmas, one and all! 🙂



3 thoughts on “Christmas moaning

  1. The ice candle looks amazing. Do you just freeze a huge block of ice with all the green stuff inside and then chisel out a space for the candle? Sounds like your Christmas is much like ours. We don’t give presents to one another, but to some other people I give books or homemade gifts. Baking Christmas cookies now to go with the haunch of venison, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and braised red cabbage. Storm Barbara has just passed and the sun’s peeking out. Feliz Navidad!


  2. Glad to hear ‘Barbara’ has left you in one piece! Your Christmas food sounds good, we’ve opted for pedigree beef and veg out of the garden – of course! The ice lanterns are the easiest thing in the world to make: you put a smaller container inside the big one and weigh it down, fill between with water and push the greenery in down the sides, then freeze overnight. Remove the smaller container (it might need a little warm water treatment) and pop a tealight into the space. I’ve made round ones with mixing bowls, too, they are just as beautiful.They last for ages if it’s cold outside and you can always stick them back in the freezer until you need them again. Simple, cheap but so effective. 🙂


    • Will definitely try making an ice candle holder once there’s a bit more space in the freezer (the berries are all gone and the tomatoes and beans are going down fast and then there is a roe deer hide that Jim wants to tan and that hopefully will be out of the freezer soon!).


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