Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Christmas Time, Mistletoe And Whine

Twas the night before the 45th day before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… except the mouse I just clicked to highlight and delete the sentence I just typed all wrong.

In the run up to/deep in the midst of, the festive holiday season there’s a subject I’ve been wanting to write about in the newspaper. It’s not one that easily lends itself to much humour and to certain eyes, it could be interpreted as having been written by some lazy, preachy auld git who’s not particularly keen on Christmas. The opposite is true of course, but if that’s how it sounds, so be it.

I’d almost given up on finding a way to introduce the subject when I stumbled across a separate, but not unrelated, story in the newspaper last Thursday. In an instant, I was off and running on a mighty quest, a mission, a crusade, a holy war of sorts, to right wrongs, slay dragons, sing carols and kiss tender young maidens under the mistletoe. Hopefully.

With the end of the year fast approaching, here’s a little festive conundrum for you. Close your eyes, think hard and tell me, what did you get for Christmas last year? Come on, it was only eleven short months ago so it shouldn’t be too difficult to recall. Was it 2004’s “must-have” iPod/DVD/Xbox/mobile phone that you can now buy for half the price because it’s been superceded ten times over? Or was it the more traditional collection of fragrant cosmetics you never used, or books you never read, or comedy socks you never wore?

If you’re still struggling to come up with an answer, put it to one side and consider this instead? What Christmas gifts did you buy for your partner/parent/sibling/loved one last year? Did you put a lot of thought into it? Was it something they really desired? Did an emotional tear appear in the corner of their eye as they peeled off the wrapping paper to reveal the fruits of your thoughtful labour?

Now I know some of you are thinking it’s the 8th of November and discussions of this nature should be confined to a more appropriate and relevant time of the year – September perhaps, when the first strains of Jingle Bells appear in television commercials and your letter box is crammed full of Christmas catalogues. But before you venture out to commence the madness of Christmas shopping, think about your answers to the questions above and bear in mind the following, earth shattering revelation.


Bah humbug? Perhaps, but it’s an argument that’s rolled out every year (starting in September of course) and every year a little bit of the true spirit of Christmas seems to erode away.

So what would it take, I wonder, to make us reassess our attitude to Christmas? A complete overturn of our must-have-it-now culture? The alarming levels of personal debt in this country? Last week’s announcement of a record number of Scots being declared bankrupt? Or maybe a simple tale of a child’s generosity is all we need.

If you missed it, last Thursday’s Record reported the story of young Charlie Carr, an accident prone six year old who spent time in Edinburgh’s Sick Kids Hospital recently after splitting his head open and cracking his collar bone. Charlie had a birthday at the end of October and rather than receiving gifts, he asked his friends and family to donate to the hospital to help the nurses who’d treated him.

“I’ve got quite a lot of toys,” explained Charlie, “so I wanted to do something else for my birthday.”

Gulp! This is a remarkable story at any time of the year but especially now and one which should inspire us all to do something different this Christmas

So here’s my proposal for an alternative gift-giving strategy. Amongst your immediate family introduce a Secret Santa draw so that each person only has one gift to buy. (I exclude young children from this process because let’s face it, the joy of Christmas is watching them open lots of presents and then get sick on their selection boxes before dinner.) Fix a price level and then utilise the remaining shopping days to come up with the most caring and personal gift you can muster. With all the spare time you’ll have you may even want to stretch your creative side and make the gift yourself. Imagine that! And if you’re still determined to part with any spare cash, follow Charlie’s example and donate to your favourite charity.

I guarantee that next year you’ll have no trouble recalling what you gave and received. And if any of my immediate family is reading this, I could really do with some new comedy socks.


At 8/11/05 4:11 am, Blogger The Other Half said...

all i want for christmas is to be considered a tender young maiden by somebody again!!! ;-)~

At 8/11/05 9:29 am, Blogger Gordon said...

Well said that man. If I wasn't really REALLY needing a new electric shaver, a PSP handheld game thingy, and a jumper I'll never wear I might even sign up for your campaign.

At 8/11/05 10:23 pm, Blogger DC said...


Inspirational I'm taking a lead from Charlie and not getting you a present - you've got more than enough toys already( albeit kept in strict alphabetical order)


At 11/11/05 5:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you volunteering to do the Secret Santa draw this year, then Neil? And, if so, please can I not have Kathryn for the fourth year in a row as my giftee.


At 12/11/05 12:02 am, Blogger Stuart Sutherland said...


Dawn's volunteering to do the draw this year. All details to follow v. soon.

I want Neil to be my mystery buyer this year if he's going to "utilise the remaining shopping days to come up with the most caring and personal gift you can muster".


At 25/11/05 8:21 am, Blogger Green Glass Beads said...

Ah Neily Neil,
I posted about Christmas too, and about people calling it over commercial...Last year I got a book I really wanted, a CD I really love (and listen to),a camera, a CDplayer from my sister, a chocolate lollipop and a mad scarf thing. I gave my dad a special food and wine pack thing,my mam books, my brothers books and CDs,my sister a necklace. In my family we don´t pick one present per person but we do fix a low price cos as my ma says "it´s quantity, not quality" and in my house we play with the wrapping...


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