Forget the stress and count your blessings at Christmas

IF I had a pound for every time I’ve heard someone moan about Christmas over the past few weeks, I’d have been able to afford enough stamps to send off all my cards and have a few quid towards January’s credit card bill.

IF I had a pound for every time I’ve heard someone moan about Christmas over the past few weeks, I’d have been able to afford enough stamps to send off all my cards and have a few quid towards January’s credit card bill.

It’s meant to be the season of joy and goodwill, yet so many people just whinge about it. So much to do, so much to buy, no time to organise everything, the cost, the stress and the prospect of spending time with the family.

At the risk of sounding like a minister in a pulpit or a Victorian maiden aunt, haven’t we forgotten what Christmas is all about? Yes, the true meaning concerns a king born in a humble manger. But a close second should be that it’s a chance to pause, spend time with loved ones and perhaps exchange a few gifts to show we care.

At what point did someone decide that Christmas is a time to moan about our relatives, eat and drink too much and spend too much on presents that we can’t afford, to give to people who don’t actually want them?

It’s sad that a news story that has dominated our Boxing Day newspapers for the past few years is the vast number of unwanted presents put up for sale on e-Bay on Christmas Day evening.

Everyone says they are tightening their belts. There are rumours that this year people are cutting back on sending Christmas cards due to the high cost of postage – I’ve certainly received more e-greetings from work contacts and emails saying cards weren’t being sent. There was also the hand-made card – posted – with the note about the high cost of stamps. I’m still trying to work out the logic of that.

Let’s hope that all the promised donations to good causes are made – for charities are definitely suffering.

A story to cheer our hearts came after a thief stole £2,000 worth of presents destined for sick children in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. Someone described as a “long-term supporter” promptly replaced all the gifts plus companies and individuals turned up with hundreds of goodies, overwhelming the staff.

I’m not knocking all this generosity, but it’s sad that there had to be a theft before individuals and firms put their hands in their pockets. Good causes are not just for Christmas – there is need, ill-health and sadness all year round.

Perhaps the tough times we’re living in will make a difference to wasteful spending. Perhaps people aren’t making impetuous purchases or buying the extravagant and unnecessary.

Perhaps there’ll be a return to the practical and the affordable.

And perhaps Rudolph, Donner and Blitzen and the rest of the reindeer will really be flying tonight!

Yes, it’s Christmas Eve already – my favourite day of the year. It’s an exciting, busy day and even the tidying up and the chores don’t seem too onerous.

For me, the anticipation of Christmas is more enjoyable than the day itself. All the planning and preparation, all the looking forward and expectation. In fact, the day itself can almost seem an anti-climax – the celebration is over in a flash and you could be left wondering if it was all worthwhile.

But Christmas Eve is a day full of promise and hope. It is also a day when parent power rules. Kids are told to tidy up rooms, clean out pets and help with the preparations. And they readily agree – who’s going to run the risk of Santa not coming? This is the day when parents should be able to get the kids to bed early with a Santa story and enjoy a peaceful evening with a bottle of something to start the celebrations.

The reality can be very different, of course. And it’s easy to see why tempers get frayed.

There’s a last-minute trip to the shops, children get too excited and tearful, there are the forgotten batteries, the realisation that someone has to spend hours carefully and soberly sticking dozens of stickers on toys and you remember that last year you pledged never to invite a certain family member again – and here you are listening to his same boring boasts and insults about your home and hospitality.

But in all that tearing around and tension, the family fights and rows with loved ones, perhaps we should remember that, actually, we’re lucky.

A lot of folk have no one to moan at, no one to squabble with, no one to share stories or pull an over-priced cracker with. For many, Christmas is a sad reinforcement of their loneliness and solitude.

I’m determined to look around the table tomorrow and count my blessings that I have a fabulous family and special friends to share the day with – before we all end up moaning about whose turn it is to walk the dog and who’s going to load the dishwasher!



David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer