Monday, 1 December 2008

Happy Holy days

Amy Dacyczyn, author of “The Tightwad Gazette,” made an interesting observation about children on Christmas morning: the first present is magical, she said, but the fourth or fifth means far less, and by distracting the child, destroys the magic of the first present. Moreover, by the time the child receives the fifth present, they are anticipating the sixth, and will be angry and disappointed when it doesn’t arrive.

We notice it most in children, but we all do this to an extent – we become caught up in a circle of buying and receiving that -- most people confide to pollsters -- brings nothing but stress and depression. Christmas has become an annual extravaganza months in the making, when everyone is expected to eat too much, drink too much and spend money they can’t afford to lose buying people things they don’t need. This year, consider cutting out all unnecessary gifts and obligations and taking more time for yourself and your family.

Think about whether home-made presents are possible – pictures made by the grandchildren, home-made wine or jams, canned tomatoes, a knitted scarf. They will cost little but time, and that is time spouses and children could spend together.

When you do buy Christmas presents, remember that we are entering lean years, and consider giving your friends and family practical items that will be useful in a time of outages and shortages. It doesn’t have to be survivalist gear, but maybe hand tools, a flashlight, a solar-powered or crank radio, gardening supplies, seeds and water filters. Consider gifts that are durable and do not need electricity: a wind-up clock, board games, musical instruments and cast iron pots.

Most of all, take some time for yourself – catch up with an old friend, take a walk, ride a bicycle. We don’t have an endless number of Christmases; make sure this one has some good memories.

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