Sunday, 27 November 2011

Yuletide Epiphany

Over the last few years my love of the festive season has faded somewhat. Somewhere along the line the fun and anticipation was replaced by stress and headaches. I'm not sure when it changed, maybe it was once my children were no longer living with me, or maybe during the hectic few years when my husband and I were always working through the holidays, or maybe it was when financial pressures made the whole damn thing a nightmare.

I always did my best, I'd shop and cook and decorate with the best of them but the shine and sparkle had gone. I felt I was dragging myself, kicking and screaming, through all the festivities. Last year we didn't manage to get to see our families, I couldn't afford to buy for half the people I wanted to and we were both ill from Christmas Eve through to New Year.

This year was shaping up to be more of the same.

But not now. I woke up a few mornings ago and thought WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?

I can't wave a magic wand and improve our finances overnight. I can't turn back the clock and create more time to do everything. I can't wipe out my husband's unhappy childhood memories of Christmas. What I can do is change my attitude towards it all and make our Yule the bloody best it can be.


I've reinstated a tradition my sister in law and I developed when the children were tiny and we were broke. I've set a £3 maximum limit on yuletide spending per person. Yes, you read that right. THREE WHOLE POUNDS.

When we first came up with the idea nearly twenty years ago it was a £1.50 limit but I'm allowing for inflation! The children were small and happy with colouring books and such like from their auntie, and us adults had fun hunting out the weirdest, wackiest gifts we could find for the least amount of money. Gift opening was a real hoot, and it soon spread throughout the family. Christmas day would guarantee a string of hilarious phone calls 'What did so and so get you? Have you worked out what it is yet?' Over the years, as our financial situations improved, we stopped doing it. Well now its back.

I've called everyone and told them what I'm doing, after all I don't want anyone to be offended if they've spent a lot when I haven't. Everyone is fine about it, they are all tightening their belts too, and most are really keen to join in. We are all making exceptions for our own children, and maybe grandchildren who are old enough to be excited, but otherwise it is a £3 MAXIMUM spend. And I really do mean that's the maximum. The cheaper the better. 50p? Brilliant. You get extra points for that (yes, we keep score. It all adds to the fun).

O.K so it takes a bit more time as it involves really thinking about the gifts or making them by hand but isn't that so much better than running into Boots on your lunch break and grabbing a load of their 3 for 2 offers? Of course it is. I'm taking the 'its the thought that counts' concept to the extreme. You've heard of extreme sports? Well nothing beats EXTREME FESTIVE SHOPPING, not for the faint hearted. Forget White Christmas... welcome to my white knuckle Yule.

Try it, its fun. And best of all I'm looking forward to Yule with a childlike anticipation I haven't felt in years.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Strange Seasons

The sun has shone all day in a bright blue sky.
I still have flowers blooming in my garden.
My neighbour's pear tree is covered in fresh, green leaves.
And butterflies graced my afternoon walk...

...Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it November?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Day After- a post mortem

I hope everyone had a very happy Samhain. Mine didn't turn out exactly as planned but was lovely all the same. We had planned a walk across Dartmoor to Wistman's Wood. This is something we've attempted on several occasions and have been thwarted every time. Either we set out too late and lose the daylight, or the mists come down so we can't see where we are going or...well there's always something. So when my husband woke this morning still feeling ill we decided to take the hint and postpone the trip until later in the week. Instead I spent the day curled up watching grey clouds scud across the sky and reading Sage Woman which I was lucky enough to win a copy of in a draw over at Witch Blog a while ago, and which with perfect timing dropped through my letter box yesterday morning.

The rains put paid to my ritual plans for last night. I prefer working outdoors and don't usually let the weather put me off but I do find it a little difficult to keep candles lit in the rain and as candles featured rather strongly in my plans I had to have a re-think. What should have been a garden ablaze with candle light, each one representing a loved one, or ancestor; my Garden of the Dead, became my Kitchen of the Dead instead! I now have much respect for generations past who had no choice but to cook by candle light. With so many candles burning in my kitchen I couldn't bring myself to turn on the electric light but my eyes were definitely complaining by the time I dished up.
We didn't get any trick or treaters sadly, most children here are encouraged to only go to the doors of people they know. Although when I took a walk up to the shop to buy some cider to mull there were plenty of happy children in fantastic costumes. I met a very sweet little witch, about three years old, who kept tripping over her besom and a merry band of demons, devils and goblins.

I rather like that aspect of Halloween. I like the dressing up, the silly stuff. I was reading Aine's post over at The Deepest Well and it got me thinking. My husband would disagree, (you'll find his rant here), he thinks that going along with all the commercialism associated with Halloween waters down the sacred aspects of Samhain.  I can see his point but I think celebrating Halloween is important for children. Treated properly and with care (and I guess that's the real issue here) it can introduce an awareness of death and help them to face their fears. I'd like to see Samhain treated with more respect, of course I would, but at the expense of fun? I'm not sure I would. Children today have few of the freedoms I had as a child, their self-expression seems to be stifled at every turn. Halloween is one of the few times of the years when children can really be children (albeit under a watchful parental eye) and it would be a shame to see that curtailed.

I was going to ask my husband if he had anything to add but I can't find him. Oh, there he is, out in the garden digging a hole big enough to hide in ready for Christmas. :-)