How to make Christmas a time of cheer

I have to confess I have very mixed feelings about Christmas. I have always struggled with the spend-fest and waste element, which I think for many of us is stressful. The pressure for perfection, and having the best ever Christmas, only adds to the anxiety. It can also be a time when loved ones are most missed; for me I very much feel the loss of my Mum during the Christmas period, as she was always the life and soul of the party. However a winter celebration is also a welcome thing and I do enjoy the social aspect of parties and community carol services and sing-songs.

We’ve found one way of making Christmas more fun has been to stop giving presents to the adults (home made chocolates and chutneys are exempt). For our very close family we do gift; we encourage our now adult children to make a list, which we stick up the chimney for Father Christmas. This may reduce the element of surprise, but it does mean that money and carbon is not wasted on something that is not needed.

Home made crackers

We do keep a few surprises in hand; usually odd things bought from charity shops that will raise a smile. I’ll be making crackers out of old cereal boxes and decorated newspapers, that will be stuffed with charity shop jewellery, locally-made tree decorations and other random small things, along with terrible jokes, of course. Cracker pulls can be bought online and if you don’t want to make your own hats, you can get cracker pulls and party-hat packages. I’m not aware of an ethical source, but if anyone knows one do please let me know!

Experiences make good presents

If you want to spend money, often experiences can make excellent presents. In the summer I learned how to weld a stool with the Weld Space in Plymouth. This was great fun and I am really proud of my stool. Adrenalin Quarry in Menheniot do vouchers. How about throwing a loved one off a cliff or going carting for the day? Some of our favourite presents have been days away, or short break holidays.

Book ideas

I love reading, so inevitably the family end up with books under the tree. We have some excellent book shops in the area, including the Bookshelf in Saltash and Liskeard bookshop (who have a loyalty scheme – a £5 voucher for every £50 spent). Book tokens made a good choice if you are not sure what to buy. My favourite reads of late have been Forecast by Joe Shute, which looks at our changing climate and his own personal journey with infertility, Restoring the Wild by Roy Dennis, who talks of the challenges and triumphs of reintroducing species such as the sea eagle and goldeneye duck to his native Scotland, and Greta Thunberg’s Climate Book, which is an ecelectic series of essays by a wide range of experts. 

For my son this year I have bought Hein de Hass’s How Migration Really Works. This is a deep dive into a really important subject; as climate changes, so we will see mass displacement as the result of flooding, fire and sea-level rises. Hein de Hass debunks myths and shows how migration has been a part of everyday life for centuries. It’s just as well our son likes secondhand as much as we do, because I suspect by the time he opens it, his book will be very well thumbed!

Presents money can’t buy

I’m partial to biographies – one of my favourites lately has been Defying Gravity, Jordan’s Story by Jordan Mooney with Cathy Unsworth.  It’s a fascinating look at the rise of the punk movement along King’s Road. Increasingly as we get older our stories get lost. Last year I helped my great uncle, who turned 98 on the 4th December, to write his biography. Being a listening ear and taking down a loved one’s histories, or a present of pen and note pad, might be the best Christmas gift yet. After all stories are one thing money can’t buy.

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