One of the best bits about Christmas is the build up to it.

It’s exciting to decorate our homes and think of lovely gifts for our family and friends.

My childhood Christmas memories that are strongest are of sparkling lights in the dark evenings, the transformation of home into something quite different, for just a little while, and the smells of candles oranges and Christmas trees and special food.

This year this is a little bit different for us all. We may have more time than we usually do to spend at home and we may also find that we have less money too.

We have collected a few ideas together of Christmassy things to make and do that will cost as little as possible, using some of the things that we find around us or can buy cheaply.

You have probably heard stories from back in the day about how it was perfectly normal to make your own decorations and presents and how much fun that was. This seems like the perfect time to try out some of those old ideas.

Over the next few weeks we will share some of our ideas with you.

Let’s make this an extra special holiday time that we can all remember fondly and one which will be good landmark end to this strange year for our children. One that is not about having a lot of money to spend but is about doing beautiful things for each other.

Baubles

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One really lovely thing to do is sort through the old Christmas tree decorations and find any of the plastic ones that are looking a bit tired.

Using a permanent marker pen or a white correction fluid pen, you can decorate these with little messages as Christmas thoughts for your home, for the wreath on your door, or even as little gifts for people. You can buy the medium nibbed marker pens and the white correction fluid pens in pound shops. If you like this idea, you can also but cheap plastic baubles there too and decorate them to give instead of cards.


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It has become a tradition at Mudchute to have a Halloween celebration. Either in the courtyard or the barn, we have gathered together, surrounded by the autumnal beauty and serenity to share a bit of a raucous family time.

Extraordinary outfits have been paraded around and extravagant pumpkins have been carved and presented for awards. It has always been a time when our community is at its craziest and most friendly.

But this year we can’t all meet together. So we have been exploring new ways to celebrate new and old traditions that surround All Hallows’ Eve.

Firstly of course, we still want to see your incredible pumpkins and outrageous costumes. Please send us your photographs and we will share them on this blog.

In my memory this time of year was exciting as a child, because I didn’t often go out in the dark. Maybe that’s not quite right. Maybe I didn’t often go out to enjoy the dark, to celebrate the night time. Halloween if a time to allow ourselves a little shudder of fear, a half caught glimpse of something that we don’t understand.

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I have friends who grew up in other parts of the UK who tell stories about ‘mischief night’ which falls at about this time of year, when the children would play practical jokes on the grown ups. This is because it was thought, many years ago, that cheeky spirits, like imps and fairies would be up to all sorts of tricks on Halloween night, and the children thought that they could lay the blame for their pranks on these supernatural creatures. Perhaps that is where Trick or Treat comes from, the idea that children will play a joke on you if you don’t bribe them to go away with sweets!

Right now it feels important that we let our children have as many amazing memories of this year as we can. So we come up with a couple of Halloween ideas for you.

Trick or Treating isn’t really possible this year. So in my street, where we all made friends playing during lockdown, we are going to decorate our front doors. After all, Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, so we should make as much of it as we can.

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Here is a very easy and cheap idea. Satsumas, or Clementines or Tangerines or Oranges and all really delicious at this time of year. (Did you know that all of them taste very different to each other? Try a taste challenge to discover just how different they are.) You can decorate them as little pumpkins using a permanent marker pen. Children are great at doing their once they have got the visual joke. It is a lovely little gift for a child to make for an adult or a friend as well as being an inexpensive way to have a lot of pumpkin faces around the place.

Another idea is to warm some apple juice in a saucepan and add cinnamon, cloves, a little nutmeg and other spices that you may use in mulled wine. Let it simmer for a little while to let the flavours brew and serve it warm, not hot. It makes a really lovely wintery drink for children and can become a seasonal family tradition.

Finally there is a nationwide pumpkins trail being organised. If you remember how we put rainbows or teddy bears in our windows at the start of lockdown in March, you will get the idea. It is designed to be a memory marker for children who can’t Trick or Treat, but who instead can go on a pumpkin spotting tour of their neighbourhood.

There are lots of fun Halloween based art activities, spooky food ideas and games and you can share pictures of your Halloween stuff there as well as sending them to farm_office@mudchute.org

You can find out more about this trail on Facebook. Search for ‘The Big Neighbourhood Pumpkin Trail!’ or visit www.artadventures.co.UK/the-big-neighbourhood-pumpkin-trail.

Remember please that our children need as many good memories of this year as they can possibly get.
Let’s make it wonderful for them.

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From Playworker Penny Wilson

For thousands of years human beings have been planting seeds and taking care of them while they grew into food to eat.

They grew as much as they possibly could in the summer so that they had enough to eat all through the year.

Perhaps the most important crops that they grew were grains, things like barley and rye, spelt, wheat and corn. These crops look a little like very tall grasses. The tall stems and leaves and other plants that grow alongside them in the fields are really important too. This is the hay and straw which is used to feed and make bedding for animals.

The grains cluster at the top of the stalks and have to be picked off, have their tough little coats-the husks- taken off, dried and eventually ground down and made into flour and then turned into breads as such.

The autumn time was and still is, the season when many crops and gathered and put safely into storage for the winter.

The lives of people revolved around the success of the crops and they made up stories which they shared at each different landmark of the farming year. These stories were partly to try and understand the wonder and power of nature. They were also to remind people what they need to do to keep on taking care of the plants and their harvest.

In England, and many other places in the world, there was a story about the spirit of the corn, who had lived and thrived in the field. When the time for harvest came, she became worried that she would have no home left and would die over the wintertime. Of course the farm people didn’t want her to die and so they made a promise to the spirit of corn. Every year they would take the very last sheaf (or bundle) of corn and treat it with enormous respect as ritual.

The women would take the sheaf of corn and fold and twist and plot it into wonderful shapes and patterns. These were beautiful objects that were given to different people to look after, and take care of until the spring. Then the ‘Corn Dollies’ would be taken out into the ploughed fields and the grains and stalks of corn that were the very last to be taken from the earlier the previous year, would be the first seeds to be returned to the soil ready for the year to come. The spirit of the corn was returned safe and sound to her cozy home.

When I was a child in the 1960s it was still the custom of the farmers near our home to save the last sheaf of corn and give it to the church as the centre piece of the Harvest Festival service which is a celebration of the wonder and power of our world.

Here are some instructions to show you how to make dolls from straws using some of the basic skills that the women used all those hundreds of centuries ago. Who knows, perhaps you will enjoy it and look on line to find some more intricate designs to try out.

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