The best present of all

ImageI’ve cut back on Christmas present spending this year.  A house move hasn’t exactly taken a toll on our finances but it has made me more aware of money and where it goes.  Firstly, my financial commitments have increased slightly and I want to be cautious during this period of readjustment.  Secondly, going through our possessions has brought about a realisation.  Initially, this came in the form of horror at the volume of items I had forgotten I even had.  Then there was a rising awareness of the amount of money that had been spent – or should I say, wasted – through the years.

I also read a timely article about a family who stopped buying presents.  When I’m out Christmas shopping, I’m aware that I’m often buying things, not because the person wants or needs them, but because I have to buy them something and I don’t know what else to get.  So although I haven’t done a complete Scrooge, I have cut down the number of presents to just one per person.  People have so much these days – I had so much before my major clear out.  I’m not going to add to their burden by buying them more things that they don’t know what to do with and I don’t want them to add to mine.  I recognise that this might come across as mean but that’s not how it’s intended.  Christmas has become a commercial venture with love being measured in spending terms.  I think we need to return to the most precious gift we can give each other, that priceless commodity that says more than any shop-bought present can – and that’s OUR TIME.  

Spending time with people creates memories and these memories will remain long after the novelty of the latest must-have gadget has worn off.  When I think back to my childhood Christmases, it’s not the presents I remember.  It’s the people and the things we did together. 

I remember waiting with excitement for my nan and granddad to arrive because it was the one time of year when they stayed with us and their arrival seemed to herald the start of Christmas. 

I remember my mum baking 60 mince pies and us teasing her about making so many, although they always got eaten, and her fantastic Christmas puddings which nothing I’ve eaten since can match, and the homemade Christmas cake with its frosted icing and plastic snowman and Father Christmas. I remember being called into the kitchen to stir the mixture, probably some time in November, and make a wish.  

I remember the ritual of buying the real Christmas tree, the smell of pine, finding its needles in the carpet and furniture long into the new year.  I remember waiting at the bottom of the ladder for my dad to come down with the Christmas decorations and the care with which we decorated the house and the tree.  I remember the year we stayed up really late carefully hanging strips of lametta over long threads of cotton because we decided to decorate the dining room that year and it was too late to buy any decorations. 

I remember sitting round the table for Christmas dinner and pulling crackers and wearing silly hats and laughing at corny jokes.  I remember my mum asking us in the early evening what we wanted for tea and us all groaning because we were still full of lunch.  I remember getting out the games (Monopoly, Totopoly, Cluedo, Spyring and many more) and playing for hours in between eating peanuts, crisps and twiglets and drinking my dad’s special cocktails that took ages to make.

I remember so many things, there are so many happy memories.  What I can’t remember is the presents.

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