Posted in Family, Personal life

When it Comes to Christmas Presents, Small is Beautiful

Laura's display of Playmobil characters and other small friends ice-skating at Christmas (Note Santa passing by in his sleigh)

‘Tis the season to start tidying!

In the Young household, the arrival of the Advent calendar kicks off our annual quest to banish clutter. When Santa arrives, we don’t want to have to tell him there’s no room for new toys – or so I keep telling my daughter Laura.

Not that we’re anticipating a flurry of extravagant gifts this year. Now approaching her ninth festive season, Laura has produced a positively frugal letter to Santa, reflecting our current economic climate. Even if he delivers everything on her Christmas list, it won’t take up much space. The intriguingly specific “yellow and white doggy key-ring” and “a biro with different colours” should fit easily in her pocket, while the requested “air freshener” will require only a couple of square inches of shelf space.

While I applaud my daughter’s restraint, I’m anxious that she doesn’t miss out on the most important Christmas present of all: a large cardboard box  to play for the rest of the holidays. (They don’t call it Boxing Day for nothing.) A few weeks ago I invested in a big wooden ottoman for my bedroom. The even bigger cardboard outer in which it was packaged has since provided Laura with many happy hours of creative play. First of all it was a bus, taking her cuddly toys on outings. Then, as easily as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it turned amphibious, morphing first into a rowing boat then into a sailing ship. With the children from next door as stowaways, she spent a happy Saturday sailing round the living room. You don’t need to live in the Lake District to beat Swallows and Amazons at their own game.

Laura’s pocket-sized presents are the antidote to the huge items on my husband’s wish-list. After a pleasant hour of Googling, “a large telescope with stand” is soon joined by “a powerful SLR camera” without which, it seems, no serious telescope is complete. At least I won’t have to find house-room for these gifts, because he’s also desirous of “a garden observatory” in which to use them. I’d like to see the postman fit that through our letterbox.

To be honest, I’m now at an age when I neither need nor covet Christmas presents. I’d be happier to have none at all. For me, as an atheist, the festive season is all about spending quality time with family and friends, and I’m planning my December social calendar like a military campaign. Though to my mind there’s no finer place than Gloucestershire to spend Christmas, our festive tour of duty will take us as far afield as Scotland to ensure we can catch up with all those we love best. The only disadvantage is that after this holiday, I think I’ll need another one to recover. Alternatively I could just go AWOL now and again to escape the action – unless Santa brings me the one thing featured on my Christmas wish-list: a cloak of invisibility.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

(This post was originally written for the December 2011 edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.)


Author of warm, witty and gently funny fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, beginning with "Best Murder in Show", inspired by her life in an English Cotswold community, short stories and essays about country life. As Commissioning Editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors' Advice Centre, she writes guidebooks authors. She speaks at many literature festivals and writing events, and is part of BBC Radio Gloucestershire's monthly Book Club broadcast. She is founder and director of the free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival which takes place in April, a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and an ambassador for children's reading charity Read for Good and the Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.

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