Christmas feel-good factor can’t come soon enough


There’s a farm near our house selling Nordman Firs, Norwegian Spruces and Scotch Pines.

This is where yours truly will be driving home from at lunchtime on Saturday with the top of a six-foot tree sticking out of one of the rear passenger windows of his tiny motor.

It may only be December 3 but that’s when the festive season will officially commence at chez Tideswell.

There are those who will tell you you shouldn’t put your tree or decorations up until Christmas Eve.

They are the kind of people who moan about the families in their street who light up the outside of their homes with 40,000 bulbs and have an inflatable Santa hanging on a rope ladder from their roof.

All I can say is they don’t half cheer me up when I’m walking the dog on a cold December night.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a Scrooge living a few doors away from me.

When he moved in a couple of years ago, just to be neighbourly, we knocked on and handed him a Christmas card – only to be told: ‘Thanks, but we don’t send cards or gifts.’

‘I bet it’s fun in your house on Christmas Day morning’, I thought to myself as he closed the door and returned to drying out used tea bags on a clothes horse.

Suffice to say he won’t be invited round to our house on Saturday.

Against the backdrop of carols from King’s College, Cambridge, we’ll be decorating the tree and the living room, eating mince pies and sipping sherry.

We’ll even enjoy writing masses of Christmas cards – rather than viewing it as a huge chore or something you can wangle your way out of by sending a blanket email to all your friends and colleagues and donating a fiver to Save The Whales.

The way I see it, Christmas cards present the one genuine opportunity each year to reach out to people you rarely see or speak to – such as relatives and friends who live far away – and show you care by putting pen to paper.

Conversely, they give you the chance to show your work mates – those people you spend more time with than your own family – that they are more than just colleagues. To thank them for being friends.

In our house we choose our cards carefully. Traditional festive themes, Father Christmas, snow men, charity cards and even Nativity scenes (if we can find any) all make the cut.

But there’s absolutely no joke cards or children’s TV characters to take away from the sentiment expressed inside the cards.

By the same token, the advent calendar for Lois and Mina which is going up on Thursday won’t be advertising Hello Kitty, Glee or Peppa Pig. It’ll be a plain red wooden truck filled with chocolates by mum and dad.

It will sit next to a traditional Nativity scene complete with stable and ceramic figurines to serve as a constant reminder of the true meaning of season of goodwill.

We’ll even make a rare trip to church for the Christingle service so my girls can sing Little Donkey and Away In A Manger while eating Jelly Tots and trying not to burn themselves with candle wax.

Given that all the anticipation and the magic evaporates by around teatime on Christmas Day I take the view we should make the festive season last as long as possible.

It was interesting that – even with a much-reduced budget – the Hanley Christmas lights switch-on event attracted thousands more people to the city centre than the previous year.

Proof – if any were needed – that, given the grim state of the economy, the job losses, the austerity measures and the looming strikes – we need the Christmas feel-good factor more than ever and it can’t come soon enough.

PS: I wasn’t joking about wanting a Santa sack again, mum.

Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday

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