Hi all:

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Susan Allen from The English Informer in the UK and The English Informer in France asked me if I could contribute an article to her web magazines on the subject of Christmas. I had to admit I’ve never been overly fond of Christmas, or at least not since I’ve been a grown up. I don’t have a large family and we aren’t particularly traditional either. Due to my job I worked quite a few Christmases (hospitals don’t close) and once I was assaulted on Christmas Day (in Washington DC, just outside Arlington Cemetery. But that’s another story). I won’t moan about the commercialisation of Christmas (you’re welcome to add your thoughts) but there’s a sense of duty to be in the seasonal spirit and a forced cheerfulness that only makes people whose circumstance might not be that merry feel worse. But now that I’ve put you on a happy mood, let me talk about something I like about Christmas and very local to me.

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Among the joys (?) of Christmas are the traditional Christmas cards and Christmas presents. And although trying to get presents if you leave it too close to the date can be stressful and challenging, there are also options that make for an interesting experience and can broaden our horizons. I like Christmas markets (although again you might want to avoid high peaks of activity if you can), and there are also smaller events that make the best out of the season.

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A few years back we had plenty of snow in November (we had the first snow of the year recently too) and I decided not to drive over the weekend. It wasn’t the first year I’d seen something called ‘Art at the Altar’ advertised at St John’s Church in Penistone.  (Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Penstjohns/) The church is well-worth a visit in its own right and is very active locally (including recently hosting a beer festival) but at that point I had never managed to go visit ‘Art in the Altar’. But that year I did, and since I’ve become a big fan.

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The event, organised by Hens Teeth  a collective of local artist, offers the opportunity to see lovely craft items exhibited in the wonderful setting of the church, and they are for sale, so you can buy unique gifts for Christmas, at reasonable prices, and support local artists and charity (as 20% of the sales go to charitable organisations). There are also drinks and cakes available, so you can make a day (or at least a morning or an afternoon) of it.

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You can find a bit of all: textiles, glass, pottery, jewellery, illustrated books, wood, scarfs and handbags, Christmas decorations, paintings and drawings…

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I include a few of my pictures (you might notice I am somewhat partial to owls) for this  year’s event but Hens Teeth also provide a link in their website to experience a 360 degree view of the 2010 event. Click here and have a look!  http://www.hensteeth.org.uk/art_at_the_altar.html

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If you are near, check their page as they have events organised around the region, and if you’re not, explore the area where you live as you’re likely to find talented artist and craft events a stone’s throw from you. You won’t only be supporting local artists and crafts but you’ll also have a great time.

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Thank you all for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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