For those who haven’t read it yet, what inspired you to write a Christmas-themed book?
My love of Christmas is legendary in our family, with October bringing half-joking/half-serious questions about whether the carols have been played yet (they usually have). My eldest daughter was born on Christmas Day, and it has always been a really special time in our family. But there have been years when my favourite festival has lost its sparkle, tarnished by in-your-face commercialism and the pressure to fit elaborate preparations into our busy lives. I wanted to write a book that would offer readers a quiet retreat from the festive noise, and be a guide to honouring this special season without sacrificing their wellbeing. I wanted to explore what Christmas really means to me, and invite people to find their own answers in order to create a celebration which suits what they want and need in any given year.
I also really wanted to write a book that recognised how Christmas can be a really tough time for many people. Our experiences of money worries, anxiety issues, loneliness, sadness and grief can be intensified by the festivities. Calm Christmas offers reassurance that readers are not alone, along with advice for handling the difficult times. I hope it becomes a lantern leading readers through the darkness of winter, back to the real enchantment of the season.
If you had to pick one, what’s your top tip to cut down Christmas stress?
My number one tip is to set an intention for the season, and make your plans in line with that.
Just as there is no one shape of a family, there is no one way to ‘do’ Christmas. Yet we are repeatedly shown the same versions of a ‘perfect’ Christmas online, on TV and in the press, and we so easily slip into the habit of trying to do Christmas the same way every year, or the way everyone else is doing it, even if it doesn’t suit our current circumstances. Or we get railroaded into someone else’s plans for the season before we’ve had a chance to think about how we’d actually like to spend it. As a result, for many, it has become a time of unrealistic expectation and exhausting depletion.
The truth is our take on the festive season ebbs and flows as we move through life, as families come together and move apart, as older generations pass and new generations are born. What we want and needed last year is probably not the same as what we want and need this year.
Taking a moment to get intentional about what really matters to you can transform your Christmas from one of stress and resentment to one of calm and joy. Why not take yourself to a favourite café for an hour or two, to reflect on the kind of year you have had ponder what single word captures the kind of Christmas you want to invite this time. You can then use that as a guidepost as you prepare for the festivities.
And, same for cutting down Christmas waste.
I think the simplest way to cut down on waste this year is to be mindful about gifting. A recent report estimated that 60 million unwanted gifts were given in the UK in 2018. That is probably a conservative estimate. Given that so many of us are stretching our finances and stressing about buying these unwelcome presents, this seems such a waste of money, a glaring environmental problem and a wholly unnecessary burden on our collective mental health.
By choosing not to give unnecessary gifts, you not only stop wasting your own money, you save on the environmental impact of producing and shipping an item that is then wrapped and perhaps shipped again, and then possibly binned. Even better, in choosing not to give someone a present, you release them from the social contract of buying you a gift in return. That in itself would be a true gift for many people.
Do you have a new year's resolution in mind?
To be honest, no. While I appreciate the lure of the first of the first, and I love a fresh page in a new diary as much as the next person, I can’t help wondering if we have made the turn of the year into something more imposing than it need be. After all, the end of December is a rather arbitrary cut-off point, given that we are still in the depths of midwinter, and our natural inclination is to hunker down and hibernate rather than embark on a bold new adventure.
Instead, perhaps we would be better off committing to languid dreaming, to ongoing nurture and care, and to acceptance of the fact that it’s okay to wait a while before launching into something new. Maybe we would be better served by moving gently into January with grace and hope and a steaming cup of tea!
Don’t get me wrong, I have high hopes for 2020 and many things I want to experience and do, and the time between Christmas and New Year is the perfect time for reflecting on the year gone past and planning for the year ahead. But instead of making overenthusiastic commitments at the very start of the year, I am going to use the time to dream, scheme and ease myself in.
My plan for next year is to set goals in alignment with the seasons, to recognize that there are times for activity and times for rest, times for growth and times for renewal in any annual cycle.
For anyone interested in planning for 2020 in alignment with the seasons, there is a whole section at the back of Calm Christmas to help them do that. Instead of setting unrealistic New Year goals, it will help readers articulate real dreams, then work out how to bring them to life in line with their natural rhythms, so it feels less of an effort and more of a dance.
If you were to choose one of our gift sets, which would it be and who for?
I would definitely treat my mum. She was the one who taught me all about Christmas magic, making every Christmas special when I was growing up, even in years when money was really tight. Ever since I became a mother myself she has been an absolute rock, helping out with many hours of childcare when I was in the writing cave, and being each of my daughters’ first best friend. This year we moved to the countryside, away from where she lives and we have all missed her immensely. I definitely want to give her something special this year. I adore REN products (the Moroccan Rose range is my personal favourite) and I would probably choose the Beauty Sleep Booster Nightcare Gift Set to gift to her, as sleep is such an important part of any winter wellbeing routine.
What’s next on the cards for you? (If you can say, of course).
I am working on a new book inspired by Japanese culture and ways of life. I can’t share much more at this point, except to say that will be an uplifting sister book to Wabi Sabi, inspiring us all to make the most of our precious lives. I will be spending lots of time in Japan researching off the beaten path next year, and it will be out in 2021.