In hard times, we should cherish the magic of Christmas and gifts that don't cost a thing – Stephen Jardine

This Christmas, we should slow down, be kind to ourselves and just enjoy the day

Phew… it looks like we are going to be OK. In October, meat producers warned us of a possible pigs-in-blankets shortage at Christmas. By November, autumn storms had led to fears we wouldn’t have enough broccoli on the table on Monday. Strikes at a chocolate factory then raised fears about Ferrero Rocher supplies, before growers waded in to suggest heavy rain could result in a lack of potatoes.

Of course, it all turned out to be nonsense but then it always does. Panic about shortages is now as much a part of Christmas as mince pies and carols. In 1997, it was Teletubbies, last year it was turkeys. Twas always thus.

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Once the queuing and trepidation are over, we always end up in the same place, with too much of everything. Right now, the shops are groaning with foodstuffs and discounting gifts like crazy ahead of the big day. Last weekend, I was on Oxford Street in London as hundreds of thousands of people descended to shop for presents. Down on Piccadilly, the Salvation Army Brass Band huddled in a doorway and blasted out the Holly and the Ivy to try to remind people there is more to Christmas than just shopping.

Santa Claus just wants everyone to be happy (Picture: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Brooks Brothers)Santa Claus just wants everyone to be happy (Picture: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Brooks Brothers)
Santa Claus just wants everyone to be happy (Picture: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Brooks Brothers)

It’s been a tricky one this year. In the summer, the United Nations said the world is facing the highest number of violent conflicts since the Second World War with two billion people living in affected areas. And that was before the conflagration in the Middle East. This Christmas feels a long way from peace on Earth and goodwill to all, with the traditional celebrations in Bethlehem cancelled.

Getting into debt to buy presents

The big festive TV adverts reflect the mood. With the cost-of-living crisis still biting hard, advertisers struggled to work out how to best engage with consumers. Instead of the usual crop on Christmas crackers, most of the efforts on screen this year felt like a damp squib. No wonder. According to the National Debt Hotline, 40 per cent of the UK population plan to use credit to pay for Christmas gifts this year. We’re pushed and prodded to buy what we cannot afford and usually don’t need.

Alternatively, we could be kind to ourselves. The greatest gift none of us can buy is good health and the best one we can give to someone else is our time and attention. We can slow down and enjoy what lies ahead.

With Christmas Eve comes all the anticipation and the memories we have gathered down the years. Presents are wrapped, the kitchen is full of good smells and, for one day, we try to be the people we always wanted to be. I always make a point of calling someone I haven’t spoken with for too long and forever feel the better for it.

Then the big day with presents and way too much to eat and drink. With sunset in Edinburgh at 3.42pm, as ever it will be over before we know it. According to the Inland Revenue, 3,275 self-assessment tax returns were filed on Christmas Day last year.

Bah, humbug. Let’s not be that person. We are all mere passing dwellers in time and space so while we are here, let’s cherish the magic that happens every December 25. Merry Christmas.



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