An Alternative Christmas

Bealtaine Cottage permaculture porch

The frost has settled on the ground all around the cottage.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture GardenThe land looks very much like a Christmas card, with frost sparkling in the early morning sun.

Bealtaine Cottage Midwinter GardenThere is something so captivating about the light at midwinter…it really is quite magical!

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Garden at MidwinterThe sad thing is that much of the magic has disappeared from Christmas.

This special time has become so very commercialised, that it seems near impossible to avoid the frenzy that is now Christmas!

However, in recent years I have attempted to do just that, and this year I feel comfortable with my own very special take on the festivities.

I am a baby vegan…just starting this wonderful journey.

Previous to that I was a vegetarian, so meat has been off the menu for some time now.

This dietary choice takes me out of one Christmas loop.

So, instead of a massive dinner that used to leave me wedged onto a sofa for most of the evening, stomach heavy with over-indulging, I cook up an absolute feast of dishes that serve as a dinner and evening buffet for family and friends.

Xmas eve Dec 11 001As it is a special feast, all who attend bring a special dish of food, so the term feast is justly applied.

Gifts are exchanged, but they are special, hand-made or locally sourced gifts.

This year I have made each family member an album of photographs of special memories.

A painting of a beloved pet was commissioned for another dinner guest.

An Irish woollen scarf has been knitted for another…and so on.

September 2011 Permaculture Cottage 010There are lots of home made wines and liqueurs, all made from fruit and flowers grown here at Bealtaine and none of which will cause a hangover!

Games are played…most of which end in silliness!

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture stoveAs there is no television we talk…something that the television usually does for us!

In the afternoon we all go for a walk in the woods down near Lough Key…usually with no-one else around.

“Who shall describe the inexpressible tenderness and immortal life of the grim forest, where Nature, though it be midwinter, is ever in her spring, where the moss-grown and decaying trees are not old, but seem to enjoy a perpetual youth.” ~Henry David Thoreau

At this special time of year, in the deep midwinter, there is beauty and joy and friendship.

Money cannot purchase any of these gifts.


  1. Good Evening, I found your site a few months ago and have enjoyed reading all about life in Ireland. It made my husband and I so jealous as we bought an old 13 acre property and would love to be restoring the house, pottering in the garden and living the type of life that you are. Imagine my surprise and delight when I read your alternative Christmas article and discovered that we are close by!! Our house is in Ballanagare, just through French Park. Currently we are living a totally different life on the Island of Bermuda, but would move to Ireland in a heartbeat! So now when I read all about the weather you are experiencing, what animals etc you are feeding in your garden I close my eyes and dream… Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season, Karen and Andrew McKeown

    Sent from my iPad
    Welcome to Bealtaine Cottage!
    My word, but Bermuda is a long way from this little part of Ireland. When you are next here, do come and pay a visit…you are most welcome! I have friends over in Frenchpark and that’s not too far from Bealtaine Cottage at all.
    Enjoy the sunshine and Christmas!
    Blessings to you both

  2. Sounds just lovely. I’ve been struggling with this one…with lots of young children in our extended family, its hard to buck the trend for Christmas including lots of ‘stuff’. We do love homemade food, little presents and treats made by/with the children, and so on. But still, there seems to be a lot of shopping! Maybe just being aware of it is a start; perhaps I can try to simplify a little each year. Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration.
    You are absolutely right…just being aware of it is a start…if change is gradual and thoughtful, it is hardly noticeable! Being mindful is the important part of reclaiming what is ours: the ability to celebrate in joy, not stress!
    Blessings to you and yours

  3. I love the idea of each person contributing to a feast that all will enjoy. Do you also share the washing-up? 😉
    I strive to keep Christmas simple too. My children seem all the happier for not being overwhelmed. It is a lovely to watch their faces light up with joy – not only when they receive special hand made gifts but when they give them too 🙂

    Warm Midwinter Blessings xx
    “Overwhelmed!” That is the word that perfectly sums up the feelings of Christmas excess. It’s good to know that others feel this too and are taking steps to reclaim Christmas! Simplicity, I believe is the key.
    Blessings to you and yours,

  4. Sounds perfect. I love Christmas, but that is because I only do the parts I like. All gifts are home made, all food is made from scratch. I bring in lots of greens gathered in the woods or from my trees and the house is very festive. Our new wood stove has made it perfect with its cozy warmth. I know people who hate Christmas, seeing it as a stressful time with too many obligations. They seem to let others define what Christmas should be. Such a shame really. Your approach seems more like what Christmas, Solstice, Midwinter…whatever you call it , should be. Enjoy!! Patti
    I like your approach…only doing the parts you like! That is a good template to apply to all the commercialized celebrations. I love this time of year too, especially the scents of greenery around the cottage.

  5. During this time for me ‘bringing in the green’ is what my grandmother taught me. So I have been visiting the places that sell cut ever green trees and picking up the branches cut from the bottoms to put in grapevine wreaths, place on tables in bowls and hang in sashes every where.
    Sounds great! I omitted to say that I bring in the green!

Your comments are welcome!