Step into Christmas but don’t lose the plot along the way says Star’s head of community Kath Finlay

Cuddly: New friends to make Christmas Day even more special, Spencer Bear is �18, Knitted Soldier �20 and Bobble Cat �12 from Marks and Spencer.
Cuddly: New friends to make Christmas Day even more special, Spencer Bear is �18, Knitted Soldier �20 and Bobble Cat �12 from Marks and Spencer.
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December 1, the start of Advent, the count down to Christmas is beginning.

Unless that is you are among a select group of people who started their Christmas preparations back in January.

It’s true; according to a comparison website, Sheffield is the most organised place in the country, with 10 percent of people surveyed confessing to stocking up on gifts when the turkey was still being served up cold from last Christmas.

Granted you will save some cash – and that is an important consideration these days – but where’s the Christmas spirit?

The survey is crammed full of distinctly un-festive facts. Choosing presents is the most stressful aspect of Christmas, apparently. Whatever happened to “it’s the thought that counts”? Unheard of in our consumerist society. Fear of missing out on that must-have gift is the second biggest consideration – step forward all those parents who have driven for miles and queued for hours for that Thunderbirds Tracy Island or Baby Annabel doll to avoid a kiddie Christmas meltdown. Keeping up with the mini-Joneses is reaching new heights.

Unsurprisngly, 45 per cent of people surveyed said they lost sleep in the run-up to Christmas because of the cost of it all. And there begins the spiral of debt that many families find themselves drawn into to create the “perfect” Christmas, particularly for children who are cynically bombarded with adverts for the latest toys.

It says it all really when one of the “highlights” of the festive season is the arrival of the Christmas TV adverts. The message might be laudable, but it’s still all about flogging more stuff at the end of the day.

And don’t get me started on the onslaught of “food porn” as the supermarkets battle it out in the name of encouraging us to spend pounds to pile on the pounds. All this at a time when many families are relying on food banks to put basic food on the table and where food waste is a real concern.

Before I disappear off to a desert island to escape it all having thoroughly depressed myself, the survey throws out a ray of hope. Apparently, 57 per cent of us look forward to seeing family and not, as the soaps would have it, dread it because of all the fighting.

It offers some helpful advice too, such as having realistic expectations and if you have a large family go down the Secret Santa route.

To that I would add enjoy the simple things such as the kids’ nativity play, stir-up Sunday and writing the cards.