The mad rush is starting already, and it isn’t even November. I think there should be a law banning people from advertising Christmas merchandise until after Hallowe’en. We know that Christmas is coming – that we’re going to spend December and January financially recovering on a diet of lentils and baked beans – we don’t need reminding how utterly miserable we’ll be every time we check our bank balance, thank you.

I decided to make a stand this year – not least because my current fiscal situation demands it – and to opt out of being a total consumer whore. I really love Christmas – or rather, I used to when I didn’t have seventeen thousand relatives to buy for. Christmas with my Mum and Dad was magic, and my favourite Yuletide memory is of the year my parents made a train set for my brother. The fact that they produced the gift themselves, that it was unique, made it all the more precious, and though D- is now 20, he still has said train set tucked away in his room.

My gifts this year will be things I’ve created myself, or things that I’ve managed to purchase for a minimum fee – ideally second hand. Not only does it mean that everyone will be getting really individual presents, it means that if something has been bought for them, I’ll have done so with a great deal of thought. In previous years, like many other people, I’ve fallen into the trap of making a last minute grab for any old item, just so that I can hand over a present. I wonder how much money has been wasted in that way over the years – how many people have smiled politely, accepted the unwanted gift and put it on ebay as soon as the giver was out of sight.

So far, I’ve been making lots of jams and marmalades, and I’m finding the process incredibly addictive. Not only can I invent new and interesting flavours, but whilst boiling up my sugar, I get a huge buzz of achievement and excitement. I can’t wait to hear what people think when they spread it on the homemade oat cakes that I’m going to produce nearer the time, and the knowledge that I’m giving my friends something that no one else possibly could, is an incredibly nice feeling.

It isn’t even November yet, but I’m already really looking forward to the holidays – something that I haven’t done for a good long while.

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