Merry Midwinter

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

Merry Midwinter by Gillian Monks is an excellent book full of memories, traditions and recipes. I highly recommend his book.
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I loved this book. It is an ideal read to rediscover the joy of winter and not only Christmas. It's full of memories, recipes, ideas and the history of the traditions and celebrations for the whole midwinter.
It strips back the commercialism of the season to reveal the magic we need to harness. It changed my outlook on the festive period.
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I did not enjoy this at all, and only read the first couple of chapters before giving up on it.  I found the tone bordered on patronising, and there was not much substance to what I read.
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An excellent read that mixes memories, traditions and recipes.
I loved it and I think it's the perfect read for remembering what Midwinter and Christmas are.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Gillian Monks' Merry Midwinter is several things at once - her memories of winter holiday celebrations when she was a child in Wales, a recounting of the stories and myths that holiday themes and figures are based upon, and the explanation of the cross-current themes that underlie winter holidays, most notably the return of  the sun and light to the Northern hemisphere.  
Monks includes some recipes as well as directions for things such as an orange-clove  pomander, which is something I remember making with my own grandmother. I only wish Grandma had known of Monks' advice to use a thimble when pushing in the whole cloves - they can be pointy and sharp for little fingers! Readers in the US  need to know that Monks' recipes are in the British/European style, with ingredients measured by weight rather than in cups, as in the states. Baking temperatures are given in Celsius/gas mark/Fahrenheit, though, so it shouldn't be much of an issue. The recipe for a minty chocolate Yule log is worth taking a slight weighing diversion for. 
An overall pick, especially if one is interested in the commonalities of winter celebrations, no matter which tradition they stem from. A lovely read.
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This was sweet, not what I expected going in. Loved the traditions and the inclusion of recipes.
Thank you again for providing me an arc for my honest review
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I have awarded this book the ultimate accolade: after reading the electronic version, I ordered the "real" book.

Monks, who describes herself as a Quaker and a practicing Druid (I didn't think that was possible!) has written a great book about celebrating all of the winter holiday season, from Hallowe'en/Samhain all the way through Candlemas, as our ancestors did. She traces the history of all the wonderful customs of the season, from decorating with evergreens (greens which represented both the spirits of nature and the "ever green" eternal love of the Son of God) to celebrating female bringers of light like Saint Lucy and Frau Holle to the connection of the winter solstice to the establishment of Christmas by the Christian Church on a day that was already celebrated as a religious holiday (the Saturnalia of the Romans, the feast of Mithras by the Persians, and ceremonies for the Egyptian Isis and the Greek god Apollo). And of course she addresses feasting, gift giving, the origins of some of the gift givers, including the now-ubiquitous Santa Claus, snow. As she states "Midwinter has always been a time for people to set aside their differences, lay down their weapons, and come together in a sense of community and celebration."

Her chapters include some of her personal memories of each of the holidays marking the winter season, along with family recipes and DIY crafts (but these are not too intrusive; I don't like Christmas books that are just recipes and crafts), but the things she emphasizes most of all are simplicity and anticipation: not to rush any part of the winter season, but to enjoy each aspect of it, from the fun of Hallowe'en to the days building up to Christmas, and then not to let Christmas just stop at 11:59 p.m. on December 25, but to celebrate the entire twelve days of Christmas and even the January days leading finally to Candlemas/Imbolc on the second of February by walking in wintry woods or enjoying the cold weather, and enjoying days doing crafts indoors when the weather is inclement. She firmly believes in the philosophy of "there is no bad weather, only inadequate clothing" and invites you not to bemoan the loss of summer warmth but to embrace the wintry chill. I loved this whole attitude of enjoying all the seasons, and also of not allowing Christmas revelry to be trapped in a 24-hour period as our modern society dictates.
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This book is set up as an exploration of the winter season and the holidays within it.  Each chapter focuses on a larger subject/month/day and allows for an in-depth discussion of whatever the topic is.  The book is also set up chronologically so as you read through you also work your way through the winter season.  Sprinkled throughout are family recipes, holiday traditions, author and the author's mother's postscripts, and some rather easy holiday DIYs.      

I loved the author's ease of writing and how she works so hard to explain details of what she follows or does in her own home and why those things are important.  She isn't trying to sell you anything here but to just have a pleasant conversation about the winter season and give you a guided tour of her traditions.  Gillian Monks reads like a pleasant lady that I want to have tea with in the early afternoon and then retire to the drawing-room and read books while we gaze at the hearth.  But seriously, this book is so idyllic and peaceful.  I love how this book feels like a cozy blanket and is packed with ideas and traditions that could be easily adapted.  I loved that there isn't a long list of supplies needed or rigorous steps; she literally instructs you on how to decorate a found limb and make it the centerpiece of your entire winter holiday season and let me tell you, I am 100% down for this!

I admired how in tune Gillian seems to be with the seasons, the holidays, her spiritual path, and the ways of the old.  I am so jealous of that but am well aware that she has both grown up in that environment and has probably had an entire lifetime to make her traditions and beliefs hers.  This is something that I strive towards achieving one day.  Her attraction and connection with the Old Ways just make this book and everything she says in it more attractive to me and it also makes me trust what she says.  She obviously knows what she is talking about.

Aside from these major parts, an element of this book that I don't normally see in books similar is in the end material, the author provides a sort of calendar for all the holidays and major points in the winter season beginning in October and running completely through February.  I love how everything you read about is in one place that you can easily reference versus rummaging thought chapter after chapter.  I love that attention to detail and care for the readers.   

Overall, I loved reading this book and really had a blast learning about so many different cultural figures and holidays and how they play into the winter and Christmas-time holiday season.  This is a great book to read if you are just curious about the season or are trying to nail down your own ways to celebrate and traditions to adopt.
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This book is part memoir, part history, and part craft guide. It follows the calendar from Halloween through the end of winter, giving the history of the holidays we celebrate and others that are lesser known. The author gives her personal history and experiences as well, along with including recipes for food and drink, and instructions for things to make that match up with her stories. It was a bit drier than I was expecting, but still interesting. From the cover and description I thought it would be lighter and not so heavy on the author's personal history.
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As someone who struggles through the holidays, it was wonderful to finally find a compendium of alternatives.  It was fascinating to learn the history behind things I've read about or heard, but not explored.  I enjoyed the recipes and ideas for rituals I can incorporate to make this season more pleasant this year than it has been in the past.
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Merry Midwinter by Gillian Monks is a book of craft ideas and recipes to celebrate the season. Some of them felt a bit too obvious.
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I really loved this well presented, attractive and full of great ideas. A good mix of the tradition and histories of midwinter, Christmas, Yule and the festive period we know, along with practical ideas for crafting and gift making. A useful book form r anyone looking Togo back to a simpler Christmas about family, love and friendship, not commercialism, thoroughly recommended 

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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This book was a lot different than the summary described. This reads like part memoir, part history of midwinter. While I was interested to learn more about traditions and history, this book felt disjointed and partly narcissistic. Unfortunately, this was not what the summary led me to believe the book was about and it was not written well enough for me to feel positive about my experience. Thank you to the publisher for the advance reader in exchange for my honest review.
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If you’re like most people who live in a snowy climate, winter quickly loses its thrall. And Christmas just becomes another reason to go deeper in debt, looking for the perfect gifts our loved ones want (and demand). Monks offers a simpler solution to the holidays, with homemade crafts and gifts and stresses the importance of finding the simple joy and peace in a season where nature sleeps
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