Coping with Christmas

After any kind of significant loss during the previous year the season of joy, happiness and goodwill can be very daunting.  Unfortunately, however, it won’t go away as the TV, shops, streets etc endlessly celebrate loud and bright. Following are some thoughts of some ways to cope – please accept that these are merely ideas.  This time is when you need to be able to cope in the way that is best for you.  If people don’t want to be with you that may just be their way of coping – please respect this but keep in touch and check in to see they are ok and be prepared for them to change their mind.  Everyone is feeling their own way in this situation – there are no rules for grief.  Having and sharing a plan for the season may avoid tension, argument and misunderstanding.

If you are on your own with no close family or friends

  • Don’t pretend it isn’t happening – there are organisations which provide lunches and goodwill which welcome those who may feel lonely
  • Invite someone around for a meal / walk / cup of tea
  • Offer to help out with others to provide a meal
  • Go away either on an organised trip or on your own if you feel strong enough to
  • Cook your favourite meal rather than traditional Christmas meal and light a candle to remember your loved one
  • Skype or phone someone
  • Treat it as just another day

If you are a family unit who has lost someone

  • Don’t pretend it isn’t happening – there are still others in the family who need to celebrate, especially children
  • Reach out to your extended family and find out what they want, rather than simply assuming
  • Try cooking something different and inventing some new ‘traditions’
  • Buy something for the family as a special present from your loved one
  • Talk about your loved one and honour them – light a candle, get a special tree decoration

If your family has moved to the other side of the world

  • Celebrate with friends or go to a hotel
  • Skype, phone or make contact with the family – keep in touch
  • Make sure you have sent any gifts or cards to arrive in time for their celebrations
  • Share happy moments and memories with others

If you have been through a divorce

  • Think about any family involved and ensure there is as little pain for children as possible – rise above mutual recrimination and blame
  • Team up with friends, go for a walk and do something different – invent new ‘traditions’
  • Avoid lone drinking and allowing yourself to dwell on seemingly happier times
  • Get some good videos or films so you don’t have to face the ‘joy’ of Christmas television

Who needs fireworks?

I have just come back from the most magical gunpowder and firework free holiday.  Both me and my beloved dog Gwenon were able to enjoy the beginning of November with no frightening bangs or flashes.

We have been staying in Northumberland where we were surrounded by the natural world and didn’t need to resort to fireworks.

The raw power of the sea crashing against the sea wall and the waves rolling onto the beach during the high winds providing all the crashes and bangs we need. The surf crests of the waves splashing up into the air to give us glitter and sparkle as the sun shone on them.

For colour, all we needed to do was walk in the woods to be surrounded by reds, oranges, yellows, greens, bronze, silver and gold.  Chasing leaves blown by the wind bringing back childish glee and joy for both of us. There is nothing quite like the smell of fallen leaves and the touch of wet soil and wood.  Colourful gems of fungi poking out their heads – amethyst, turquoise, red, yellow and white, hidden by the layer of fallen leaves.  Crunching through drier areas whilst squelching though others, icy barefoot walking in the moss and then back to sitting in front of a log burner with a lovely cup or glass of something warming. What a sensory feast, and not a penny spent trying to copy what nature does best.

Sleep came easily with dark, moonlit skies, no street lights, no traffic noise and no enforced fun.

Go outside and try it before we all get too old – break away from convention, follow your hearts, reconnect with nature.

Hallowe’en – what’s it all about?

By now I am sure we all know that Hallowe’en is approaching – yet another time for commercialisation.  So far, I have valiantly managed to stop myself from buying a plastic witch mask, ‘scary’ dress or hat and am therefore happy not to be contributing to the plastic mountain.  Gosh don’t I sound like a kill joy – and me a celebrant!

What do we know about Hallowe’en?

Here are some widely held thoughts concerning this most sacred of Pagan and Christian festival.

  • It’s the night when evil happens and the dead rise from their graves to haunt us. Hollywood leapt on this idea, providing us with such films as Hallowe’en, Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream as well as the more zany and less scary Hocus Pocus, Witches of Eastwick and Beetlejuice.
  • It is a night of fun and frolics the highlight of which is the relatively recent tradition of Trick or Treating, dressing up, letting off fireworks and eating fright foods.
  • Pumpkins can be carved up to make lanterns for placing in the window – or alternatively plastic ones can be bought.

Here are some facts that probably aren’t known about or recognised.  Many of them refer to some of the above.

  • The Celts celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-een) and it represented the final or third harvest of the year – the nuts and berries. It was the time for bringing the cattle in and the sheep down to winter pasture – bringing everything closer to home as the winter cold and dark nights took hold.  It is one of the Cross-Quarter fire festivals of the Wheel of the Year and for some groups of Pagans – e.g. Wiccans is New Year’s Eve.
  • The Pagan belief is that this is the time of year when the gate or veil between the living and the fae and spirit world is at it’s thinnest. The Christian Church adopted this time as All Soul’s Night (Oct 31st) followed by All Saint’s Day and it is the time for solemnly remembering the souls of the dead followed by an honouring of those who have died for their faith.
  • Historically in rural areas people would refrain from going out on All Souls as they were afraid they may meet ghosts or other worldly spirits. They might leave outside their houses some food for the spirits to eat, and if they did need to go out, they may wear a scary mask to fool the spirits.  They would also carve out turnips, eating the insides and carving a face in the skin, which they would light and place in the window to ward off evil – remember these were times when there was no street lighting or electric light and when it got dark it was very dark.  Using pumpkins came from America.
  • People would celebrate the final harvest by playing party games such as apple bobbing and fortune telling or scrying using water or candle flames.


Samhain is also a time for endings and new beginnings.  The ritual I shall be performing will include a time of reflection on what has happened in the past year, and a realisation of the things I need to let go, and which are holding me back.  As I journey into the dark part of the year, the days up until the Winter Solstice, I will be nurturing and planning new directions for my life, having ceremonially burnt or got rid of those things I no longer need.  Warm candlelight and firelight will lighten my memories of those close to me who have died, as well as gentle music and simple seasonal food – perhaps pumpkin soup.  Not for me the commercialised new ‘ritual’ or tradition of bright lights, trick or treating or noise – perhaps if I was part of a gentle, kind rural community I may ask others to join me, but for me here and now holing up, privately remembering and honouring and ‘hibernating’ is more than enough.  Samhain blessings to you all.