T.J. Masters
Passionately Writing Passion

Advent Calendar: Day Nineteen

The Advent/Christmas wreath.



Wreaths can be seen in many different settings and contexts. During the season of Advent wreaths can be found on tables or the heads of maidens. These become the base for candles which are lit one by one on each Advent Sunday.


On St Lucy’s Day candle bearing wreaths form crowns on the heads of girls re-imagining the saint. Once the wreath is mounted on a door it becomes known as a Christmas wreath and comes in all variety of size or design.

Traditionally a wreath is an assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs, moss or various materials that are woven together to resemble a ring. Wreaths have a good deal of history and symbolism associated with them. They are usually made from evergreens and symbolize strength since evergreens last even throughout the harshest winters. Of course these days many Christmas wreaths are also made from artificial materials.


Advent Calendar: Day Eighteen

The Jolabokaflod.

In Iceland there exists a wonderful Christmas tradition, which which binds literary and holiday pleasures into a single marvelous event on Christmas Eve.

The majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas. Icelanders give books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spend the night reading, even taking the book to bed to continue the joy. This custom has become deeply embedded in the culture and the buying season is known as the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,”

At this time of year, most households receive an free annual catalogue of newly published books called the Bokatidindi. This is one free catalogue that everyone scrutinises while they choose which ones they want to buy.

The small Nordic island, with it’s population of only 329,000 people, is extraordinarily literary. The country has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world. Icelanders love to read and write and one in ten of them will publish a book.

The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift that you always pass on a physical book rather than an e-book since there is more value placed on physical, paper books than in many other countries. The global publishing industry runs on the pattern of a few people buying lots of books. In Iceland however the pattern is one of the majority of people buying several books each year.

For those of us who love books and reading, this sounds like a wonderful tradition that ought to be more widely known and embraced. Could there be any more peaceful way to relax after all the days of preparation than to curl up with a good book and a comforting drink while all around you are doing exactly the same.

Advent Calendar: Day Seventeen


In the story Dear Santa, Dear Dad, One of the scenes takes place in the village church on Christmas Eve. Steven goes along to carol service where he is amazed at how welcoming everyone is towards him and how much his son and the boy’s lover have been welcomed into the community. Part way through the evening he is amazed when his son’s lover gets up to sing an emotional solo performance of the much loved Christmas song O Holy Night. As one of my all time favourites it was an easy choice to include in the story.

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,


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?