The first essay is a level 2 post (12-15-year-olds). It comes from the book ‘Blue-Sky Thinking’ which is available FREE on the internet by clicking on the link below:
The second, shorter essay is a Level 4 post (16-18-year-olds) and it comes from the book ‘Writing with Stardust’. Both books are now on Amazon and just click on the images below to get further details
I hope you enjoy both of the stories below:
THE CHRISTMAS TREE AND THE GENESIS GENE IN ALL OF US
Frost-spikes hang off the window sill like a phantom’s glassy fingers. The pine sweet smell of the tree ghosts through the room, mixing with the oaken oven scents.
The star-flash of tinsel glitters brightly and ribbons of flame dance in the hearth of the fire. They chase away the burglar-black wall shadows and you sink deeper into the couch. A sunrise warmth heats up the room and you are content. Your eyes drift up to the angel at the top of the tree. It reflects like river-light and you wonder why it stirs up memories you never knew you had.
Outside the window, the world is a moonscape of white. Jack Frost’s fangs have bitten deep into the flesh and blood of the earth, leaving it clay-cold and drained. The night before he was out, plunging his vampire-white teeth into what’s left of nature’s trembling, dying heart. There is no bird song, no grass whisper, no footfall. Jack hates every living thing. He seems to swoop down quietly from the iron sky and strangles the world into silence. His cold gleam and icy eye polish everything with glassy hatred. Then his undead fingers creep and crawl across the land, leaving it as pale and drawn as a zombie’s face.
You hear a sound, however, and you go to the window. The noise of feet on the powdery snow is like muffled grenades. It is your dog and he is rolling around the snow. There is a rabbit lifeless on the ground and he rolls on him too. The faint crackling of turkey juices dripping onto tinfoil can be heard from the kitchen. Its unique smell of McDonald’s paper mixed with a delicious, gamy scent swirls around the room. The exotic whisper of stuffing and parsley burning into the flesh makes your stomach rumble and your mouth water. The sweet, cedar fragrance of the Christmas tree wafts around the room and it conjures up a memory you never thought you had…….
There are between 30 and 40 of the Magdalenian tribe sitting around the fire and they are happy. It is Christmas Eve, 11,000 B.C. and they are at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in Northern Spain. They are the first humans to look and think exactly as we do today: homo sapiens sapiens (man wise wise). Their long hair is not the Rapunzel-gold of fairy tales. It is caramel-brown, long and glossy from a diet of eggs, nuts, fish and fruit. They hunt wild boar, reindeer, wild goats, horses, bison and aurochs. Aurochs are the biggest bulls that have ever lived and the only herbivore which will stalk and kill the hunters if given the chance.
The women wear animal skins which look exactly like the expensive fur coats we wear. They love the white fur of the Arctic wolf, fox and hare, but the Ice Age has just ended in Europe and these animals are getting hard to find. They make seashell necklaces and bracelets and their shoes are made from tough leather lined with fur. The men wear carnivore teeth from lions, bear and lynx. They punch holes through them with ivory pins to wear them around their neck. The more you wear, the higher your status as a hunter.
A few wild turkeys are roasting on the fire. They have already killed 3 wild boars and eaten them and the turkeys are for the eldest and the youngest in the tribe. There’s an assortment of other small animals ready to roast for dessert: hare, squirrels, snowy owl, hedgehog, badger, weasel, gopher and dormouse. In 11,000 years’ time, Julius Caesar will find that the only Spanish tribe he cannot conquer are the descendants of the Magdalenians. However, the Magdalenians and the Romans have one thing in common; a love of stuffed dormice served with honey, herbs and pine cone seeds.
The Magdalenians are ferocious, as Julius Caesar will find out. They also love their children, are very caring towards the elderly and are Europe’s first cave artists. The men wear beards for the winter and ignore the huge, dark shapes prowling around the campfire. These are the hunting wolves of the Magdalenians and they are strong and fierce also. The men can relax in this wooded glade while the wolves are patrolling. Watchful eyes, none of them friendly, lurk elsewhere in this forest. The human race in Europe numbers only 3 million souls, but most of the tribes are warlike and savage.
The dripping blood from the turkey makes the fire spit, hiss and cackle. It is a cold, starry night and it is as if dream dust has been sprinkled in the sky. The Bethlehem star shines above one cypress tree and the women point to it and call it a good omen. They do not believe in angels, but if they did, they would call it one. Tongues of flame dart up from the fires, banishing the bat-black shadows.
There is no light pollution here and the moons dazzling brilliance flings spears of light into the holly glade. Five juicy salmon, fished from the River Elbo, are skewered on sticks next to the boar. Their silver skin blisters and sizzles over the fire. A pot is on the boil next to them containing wild mushrooms, periwinkles, thyme and almonds. Dinner tonight is a surf ‘n turf delight. The mint-fresh lungs of the Magdalenians inhale deeply and take in the fragrances of the forest. A phantom of smells lingers in the air: grilled meat, charred cedar boughs and the sap-sweet smell of burning wood. The river glitters like jewels in the cat-light of the night.
The wolves roll over the cast away carcasses of the boar and reindeer. It will help them to disguise their musty smell when they are hunting game tomorrow. The Magdalenian men know this and laugh at their behaviour. They are happy, contented and proud of their tribe. The forests they live in are a real danger and challenge, but they are beginning to conquer those challenges. Little do they know it, but their genes will soon be travelling over to refresh the newly-thawed lands of England and Ireland.
Back in the present, you open your eyes and let the ghost of Christmas smells waft up your nostrils. The scene you had of a tribe in a forest came and went so quickly, you have forgotten it already. The glossy-green holly stirs up a memory again, but you can’t recall it: the smell of your new, leather shoes: the amber scent of the tree sap: the fresh, crisp smell of the pine needles. They all scream at you to remember your genesis gene. You don’t know it, but the Christmas tree is a gateway to the past, an anchor of the present and a bookmark for the future that family comes above all else. That is why the Magdalenian gene still exists.
You look out the window and you see the dog rolling around. “Now what’s gotten into him?” you mutter. Just then you hear the greatest sound in the world. The bell chimes for dinner. A boom of heat and a carnival of laughter greet you as you open the door to the kitchen…………..
LEVEL 4: ADVANCED PARAGRAPHS
I stared into the fire. It crackled and spat before hissing into life. Its lambent light stole away the velvet-black shadows dancing on the wall. Flames of rainbow-orange licked hungrily at the chimney as they clambered higher and higher.
The fire’s hypnotic jig of joy was as much a celebration as ours. It wanted to be alive on Christmas Day also. A pageant of smells filled the house. Thyme-filled turkeys sizzled on the oven foil. They battled to take over from the lavender-scented candles and the sulfurous smell of crackers. I could hear them snapping and exploding in another room. The scrumptious smell of goose grease wafted into the room, sifting out the other smells. The children had been up early, hoping that the greatest illusionist of them all had visited.
Swag-bellied Santa used sleigh-in-hand rather than sleight-of-hand, but his brand of escapism beat Houdini every time. This jolly, whiskey-nosed character has conjured up more delight from souls than the rest of humanity combined. His marmot-cheeked magic is indeed a joy to the world. I heard the welcome sound of the kettle boiling. It was bubbling and hissing in the background. Warmth flooded the room as the fire came alive. The sound of chuckling and chortling floated to my ears.
The Christmas tree flashed and flickered with its dazzling lights. An angel was perched on the top, glittering with its flash-silver lustre. A single candle twinkled merrily in the window. The jingling of the dinner bell rang. It’s the greatest sound that winter could offer.
I sighed with happiness and followed the smells and laughter to my chair.
For much more of the above, please check out my book Writing with Stardust which is now available on Amazon. You can also click any of the book images below.
Despite how the modern message may have been diluted down the years, each Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus with traditions drawn from Christianity as well as other ones personal to our own family. Each family I know follows many of the same traditions as we do, however each put their own spin on it and make it their own. My Christmas is special because of these very traditions which we have formed as a family.
The 1st of December is my favorite day in the year because it marks the beginning of my Christmas. On the 1st of December my family and I go to the shops and buy a special new tree decoration. My parents have been collecting Christmas decorations for years and nothing matches on purpose. Christmas spirit is everywhere on the 1st of December, the shops play festive music and are usually decorated down to the last detail. It is this date for me that marks the beginning of the season.
We all put the tree up together the weekend after. We play Christmas music in the background, wear the Santa hats we dug out of the loft and have a drink. After the tree is up, the excessive amount of food has been brought, then the family all come down for the big day. We live all over now so the traditions have had to be adapted slightly. Christmas is the time when we all make the effort to come down at the same time. We go on the 24th of December and play family games all day. We have a buffet dinner which we call an ‘itsy bitsy’ then make our way to midnight mass at the local church.
On Christmas day we wake up early, around 8 a.m. and have breakfast together. We don’t open our presents as soon as we get up as we all agree that we love the anticipation. When we do get round to opening our gifts, after dinner has been put on and the vegetables have been peeled, one of us hands each present out, one at a time.
After presents we all help to get the dinner dished up and the table laid. For dinner we have a turkey with all of the trimmings, we say grace before dinner and then pull our crackers. We have a competition to see who can keep their hat on for the whole day.
After dinner comes the washing up, which we all help with. Then we enjoy family games which we either got that day or we dig out the old classics. The games are my favorite part of the day. It is something which everyone gets involved in and has a great laugh over.
Our family traditions at Christmas have been adapted since people have moved away however, we always make the effort to be together and play games together. Our traditions are much the same as any family; we eat, we give gifts and be merry.