I spent this New Year in the Sanctuary in the Peace Garden. It was a peaceful time, away from the noise and hubbub of the celebrations. The weather was sunny and I spent time foraging, walking and reading. It was just what I needed. Christmas and New Year are a difficult times for me. I have very mixed feelings about it all and I am sure I am not the only one.

I don’t like the pressure on families to buy so much in order to feel happy. I am not keen on the excess of food and drink. I know a little of the debt some people get into in order to have a happy Christmas and celebrate New Year. So I usually regard the approach of December with some dread.

I am not a religious person so the Christmas celebration holds little meaning for me. So where does that leave me? What should I do at Christmas time?

People tell me that Christmas is rooted in pagan tradition, the winter solstice and lengthening days. The lack of daylight can certainly make us feel very low, so bringing fire and light indoors is a comfort. I appreciated the wood burning stove and pretty lights in the Sanctuary.

The harvests are complete and there is little work to do in the Peace Garden, so it seems a good time to feast on the fruits of our labour as pagans would in midwinter. For the first time I have stored apples, frozen berries and beans for winter. The availability of any type of food at any time of year in the supermarkets means we sometimes forget the season’s gifts.

I enjoyed adorning the Sanctuary whilst I was there. I have been on a decorating bonanza using the wealth of the garden and woods. I find these days I am attracted to things that have a more natural sparkle than tinsel. I love the contrast of red berries with evergreen plants; they make an attractive centrepiece for any table and those wood beams just cry out for bunting.

So although I am not for excessive spending or lavish gifts at Christmas, I do like the simplicity of the season. What better than on a frosty sunny day, to take a walk in the woods with my dog Lola, picking pine cones to decorate the Sanctuary where I know it will be warm and welcoming?

I think I got my wish this New Year – to have some peace and some quiet, some light, lots of warmth and good tasty food. With my dog at my side and the beauty of Minsteracres on my doorstep, it surely was a magical experience.