T.J. Masters
Passionately Writing. Writing Passion.

Advent Calendar 2016

Advent Calendar: Day Fourteen

Release Day: Dear Santa, Dear Dad

December 14th is the release day for my Christmas story. If it looks familiar then that is because I originally self published it back in 2013. My wonderful publishers Dreamspinner Press have kindly agreed to release this 2nd edition in time for the festive season this year.

Two days before Christmas, widower Steven drives to the North of England to meet his estranged son, Andy, hoping for a reconciliation. Steven rejected his son when, as a nineteen-year-old student, Andy came out to his parents. Andy now enjoys a happy and fulfilling relationship with Peter, who initiates contact with Steven by forwarding an almost childlike letter to Santa, in which Andy asks for a father who loves him.

Dear Santa,

I hope you’ve stayed fit and healthy since last year. Are all the reindeer looking forward to their long night out again? I’ve tried to be good all year, so I hope you don’t mind if I ask for just a few special things this Christmas.

First I would like my amazing man, Peter, to have everything he wants at Christmas and throughout the year. He deserves so much for being so kind and loving and for being the greatest thing that’s ever happened in my life.

Second I would love to have a black Labrador puppy to love and care for.

I know my last request is the hardest one of all, and I am sorry for asking, but I wish I had a dad who loved me.

Thank you for reading this, as always. Please say hello to all the elves for me!

Merry Christmas,

Andrew

Andy isn’t quick to forgive his father, but the bad weather conspires to strand them all together over the holidays. Father and son experience a steep learning curve, not helped by Steven’s realization that his son’s lover is older than he is. But proximity and familiarity have a way of breaking down barriers, and if all three men can work together in the spirit of cooperation, this Christmas might be one that changes their lives forever.

  • Release Date: 
  • Type: Novellas
  • Words: 14,437
  • Pages: 48
  • ISBN-13 978-1-63477-062-0
  • File Formats: epub, mobi, pdf
  • Available now from DreamspinnerPress.

Advent Calendar: Day Thirteen

The Decorating Begins

I have never been one for decorating the tree or anything else until we are in sight of the big day itself. It is also a tradition in our house that I do the decorating either overnight or whilst Ian is at work so that I get to see his smiley face when he walks in to see everything done.
Today was that day. Starting with locating the tree, lighting it and then decorating it.

   

And that craft project that started with painting and glittering pine cones last week? With the addition of some dried orange slices and a set of battery operated lights, this was the outcome.

      
The smiles and hugs. The twinkling and shining. Christmas begins.

Advent Calendar: Day Twelve

I know we’ve already had a beautiful version of Carol of The Bells but I cannot resist posting this one from The Swedish Chef. Enjoy!

Ringing the Bells

Opslået af Swedish Chef på 23. december 2010

Advent Calendar: Day Eleven

Keeping The Magic Alive

Last week I posted a picture of myself with my winter beard and wearing a Santa hat. One of the best responses I got was from one of my dear friends and ex teaching colleagues whose daughter was watching her Mum scrolling through Facebook. Upon seeing my selfie, 5 year old Kathryn gasped ‘You know Fr Christmas mummy!’ That message made my day!
During my long career as a primary school teacher, there were many occasions when high levels of tact and diplomacy were required. This was ever so when dealing with those age groups where the children were starting to question the reality of Santa Claus. There was always the awareness that some knew to their core that he was real, while others had lost the magic and their truth was founded in logic. Of course in between were the doubters who could not quite bring themselves to let go – just in case!

Parents would ask how to deal with the difficult questions, often feeling that honesty should prevail. Like a true Coach I would return the questions, “What do you think?”, “How would you feel if……” etc. Of course the perennial concern was the problem of not wanting to lie to the children. Everyone is convinced that at some point in the future they will be faced with an angry teenager declaring that “Because you lied to me about Santa, you lie about everything!” Ask anyone who has had teenagers. That will be the least of your worries! On the other hand can anything really out do waking up on Christmas morning to wide-eyed children gleefully shouting “Santa’s been!”

Modern life is chipping away at childhood and its magic in so many ways.  I say,  perpetuate the magic as long as possible! I firmly believe that as adults we need to experience moments of awe and wonder whenever we can. How will we learn to do this if, as children, we have not experienced magic in our lives? The Santa Claus period should be seen as an important positive element in our education and development as well rounded human beings. Keep the magic alive for as long as possible. All too soon your lanky, skinny-jeaned offspring will be replacing the letter to Santa with a list of vouchers required, while calmly announcing that they are spending Christmas with the boyfriend’s family!

 

Back in 1897 one little girl expressed her worries and this lead to one of the most famous editorial responses ever from a newspaper. Her original letter to the editor read as follows:

Dear Editor

I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says: If you see it in the paper it’s so.

Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West 95th Street

Virginia sent this to Francis P. Church, the editor of a New York city newspaper, The Sun. On 21st September He published the following thoughtful and passionate response:

“We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication above, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The New York Sun:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds Virginia, whether they are men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! How dreary would be the world be if there was no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus!

You might as well not believe in fairies!

You might get your Papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn?

Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there.

Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.

Only faith, fancy, poetry love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?

Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever.

A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Let’s perpetuate the Magic and as adults let’s remember the joy of it.

Now, does anyone have an email address for the Tooth Fairy?

Advent Calendar: Day Nine

Yesterday I mentioned seasonal handicrafts but of course some people take that to an extreme and unlike my work on a table decoration, they have the vision and skills to turn the entire house into a festive scene. Today I leave you with a wonderful example of this which needs to be seen with the sound turned up.

Watch! It's not just about the lights… but the soundtrack too… just wait for it!

Opslået af iRadio på 3. december 2014

Advent Calendar: Day Eight

img_6396One of the simple pleasures during the lead up to Christmas for many people is handcrafting. As a primary school teacher I used to spend a huge amount of time making cards, gifts, decorations and all manner of Christmas goodies with the children. Since retirement I have not done much craft work but this year I decided to turn my hand to a few simple efforts which I will share with you – if the results are presentable. Today I have spent my spare time hand painting some fallen pine cones and even rolling some of them in silver glitter. I am leaving everything to dry while I am out partying tonight and then tomorrow comes the assembly of something which up to now has only existed in my head! Watch this space.

img_6397Make a card or just a gift tag for someone you care for. It’s very therapeutic and the result is so much more personal.

Advent Calendar: Day Six

Today is the the feast day of Saint Nicholas and while many of us are getting prepared for Christmas, there are some countries where the festivities begin early on today 6th December. This is a festival which is celebrated across Europe with gift-giving in Western Christian countries, but it is celebrated several weeks later on 19 December in Eastern Christian countries. It is marked with the giving of presents, parades, feasts and festivals.

So who was Saint Nicholas?

santa-clausThe figure is believed to have been Nicholas of Myra, a 4th century Greek bishop of the community of Myra, in Asia Minor who was later made a saint. During his lifetime, Nicholas had gained a reputation for gift-giving by putting coins in people’s shoes and this is where the Christmas tradition of giving gifts originates. In 1087, Italian merchants stole his body from Myra and took it to the town of Bari in southern Italy, which still celebrates St Nicholas Day to this day. It is further believed that his body was taken to Ireland where he is believed to lie to this day.

Saint Nicholas inspired the traditional characters of Santa Claus and Father Christmas. The historic figure is referred to by many names across different parts of Europe, such as Nikolaus in Germany or Sinterklaas in the Netherlands.

What myths and traditions are associated with St Nicholas Day?

According to legend, Saint Nicholas is believed to visit homes accompanied by an evil spirit — known as Krampus in Austrian and German folklore — who punishes badly behaved children. In The Netherlands this character is known as Black Peter which has sparked much racial controversy in recent years.

Before St Nicholas Day, children like to leave their shoes in front of the fireplace or at the front door with the hope of finding small gifts in them on the day.

Advent Calendar: Day Five

Not only is today the 5th day of the Advent Calendar sinterklaasbut the 5th December is also the Eve of St. Nicholas. Today in Belgium and The Netherlands, families celebrate Sinterklaas when the red-robed man delivers gifts to all those who have been good for the past year. The origin of this tradition appears to be Nicholas, bishop from Myra in Turkey which is why he wears a red clerical cope and miter. It was believed that the bishop saved the town from starvation and that he was famous for leaving people secret gifts and money in their shoes. Sinterklaas appears to have moved to Spain where the Dutch say he now resides. Nobody knows why he moved and since he is now around 1800 years old he probably does not remember anyway.

Sint as he is often called, rides a dapple grey horse, named Amerigo and he writes everything down in a big red book that he carries around with him. Sinterklaas has always been the patron saint of Amsterdam, of sailors and of children. In late November, a few weeks before his actual birthday, Sint sails in from Spain by boat. His arrival is a festive occasion that children eagerly anticipate. Then he processes through the streets while his Pieten (helpers)shower the waiting children with candies and tiny brown cookies, called pepernoten.

From his arrival until his birthday on 6th December, children leave their shoes by the fireplace at night filled  with hay and carrots for Sinterklaas’ horse. If the child has been good they will find chocolate or little presents the next morning. If however, the child has been naughty they will receive a note saying that if he or she doesn’t clean up their act there will be no presents on 5th December and even worse Sinterklaas may take the child with him back to Spain in his sack. Many young dutch children live in fear of being taken away!

Finally on the evening of 5th December, there is banging on the front door or on the windows but when the children open the door, there is nobody there. Instead they find a heap of presents in canvas sacks.