Marianne Rosen portrait

Do you crave a different sort of festive season?


Christmas is for children. Christmas is for families. Christmas is for Christians. Whatever it is or isn’t,  Christmas is not for everyone. So, how do you feel about Christmas?

I find myself thinking about different people at this time of year. Those on their own, not in their own home, struggling with the dynamics of extended families, bickering with partners, pressured by trying to provide their children with a wonderful time, and those who don’t want to look at the bottom line and count the real cost.

My current WIP begins and ends at Christmas so I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to myself, as well as to others. Whilst I too succumb to the inevitable aspects my daughter needs; tree, decorations, presents, magical suspense, I’ve also learnt to provide for myself a little more over the last few years. And I wanted to share some simple ways in which I’ve learnt to make Christmas meaningful and peaceful, as well as special in the ways we all love.

If Santa were listening, my total wish fulfilment would be simple. Me and the beach. A long walk on a windswept wild beach, followed by a fire, a simple meal and only the most treasured company or, even better, a book for the evening ahead. My favourite Christmas meal is beans on toast with champagne. I’ve achieved this ideal a handful of times in my life and, whilst I treasure the family I have now, I hope to achieve that bliss of solitude a few more times yet. But at the moment Christmas is dictated by my daughter and partner who are resolutely traditional about it. The bigger the better. And, of course, the first few years of this was fun. Then it got a bit tough, then it got downright depressing. So, I decided to reclaim it in my own special ways.

Firstly, Christmas doesn’t start until after the 12th, minimum. In terms of shopping, cooking, cards, decorating. December is my final month to claim this year, not a month to think about Christmas. This year, my first year on Instagram, has been hard, as the festive fever has been high. But I’m happy to let others do what works for them, and remember what works for me.

Secondly, I step aside from the norm to celebrate a different tradition; Winter Solstice. Falling between the 20th and 23rd of December, and happening on Sunday 22nd December this year, Winter Solstice is a pagan tradition that is found in different variations around the world. What it means here in Britain varies from website to website, you can find out a bit more about how to celebrate it through a simple Google search, but in essence the Winter Solstice marks the point when the days begin to lengthen.

Our own solstice celebrations began four years ago when a friend and myself needed a tonic to the pressure and expense of Christmas. We built a big fire pit in a small woodland patch, set up an outdoor cooking fire and invited five or six families to join us. We cooked a potato and chorizo stew over the open fire, made mulled cider, and toasted marshmallows for the kids. We made a Yule log from a fallen branch of hawthorn and placed fine candles in it, as seen in the picture above. We shared a story of the winter traditions, honouring the power of nature to bring back the light. We wrote our regrets or losses for the year, or our fears for the coming year, on pieces of paper. Then, in silence, we held onto our woes, honoured them and threw them into the fire to let go of them. Finally, we all lit a candle, either on or around the Yule log and cherished the light that is coming back to us.

This simple celebration cost us nothing to achieve bar goodwill and enthusiasm. Some of those attending arrived sceptical but left refreshed. For myself, it helped me engage my harmony to enter into Christmas already embracing the joy of the season. In recent years the ground in the wood has been too saturated to venture into so late in the year and we have curtailed our solstice celebrations to a small tin shed nearer the house. Our outdoor fire pit became a steel drum, and we dragged a sofa out of the house for a bit more comfort. The Yule log has moved with us. I’m incredibly lucky to live on a farm and have these options to consider, but celebrating Winter Solstice takes no more than a decision to enter into the darkest night of the year and embrace the coming of the light. You could go for a walk, decorate your house with natural flora and invite friends to share a story and snacks, craft and light a yule log. Children love the solstice traditions, and I’ve even found teenagers who have scoffed at parts of the event will be first in line for the pieces of paper to write their woes and grudges on. Now, I couldn’t consider Christmas without our solstice celebrations.

Thirdly, in the battle to control Christmas stress, I learnt to share the burden. I used to need to do everything in order for it to feel perfect. Decorate the house, dress the tree, write all the cards, wrap the presents, cook the dinner, host the family. ENOUGH already. Now, my daughter does the decorations and I grit my teeth about the lopsided tree. My partner cooks the dinner (the only meal he cooks in the whole year) and generally I encourage the family to stay in their own homes. I visit people after Christmas Day, when the days are slower and everyone more relaxed.

Finally, I claim this as time for myself. To assess the year gone by and recharge and focus for the year ahead. This is when I set my goals and lay out my dreams. To achieve something fun for myself. Last year I gutted the upstairs of our house, turning a bedroom into a playroom and two other rooms into separate offices for my home-working family. It was chaotic and fun and demanding, and it set us up for a fantastic start to the year. I created at last my own writing office, surrounded by inspiration and motivation and with a door to shut on all distractions. This year, I will be creating a wood-working area for myself and my partner in our garage (though, hopefully, he’ll be a bit too busy to use it too much!). And I always take time for myself; walking, reading and dreaming. Setting myself up for the year ahead.

If none of these ideas appeal to you, you can find some more ways to make the season special. But the big message here is that you are ALLOWED to partake of this season for yourself. Yes, it is about showing love to those around us, gratitude for all our blessings, and hope, but this also applies to you. You too are worthy of love, gratitude and hope, so invest into yourself and start the next year and the next decade brave and strong. Eat less, drink less, social media less, exercise more, step out of your comfort zone, and get some quality rest.

May the new year look bright for you and yours.

Marianne Rosen portrait