Once again I am astonished by the advertising hype that annually assumes such ludicrous proportions at this time of the year. I am being repetitively admonished by my favourite radio station to ‘order now and have the magic of Christmas delivered to your door’. What nonsense is this? One of the definitions of the word ‘magic’ in the Oxford English Dictionary – and the one which I feel applies most closely to Christmas – is ‘an enchanting quality or phenomenon’. How can any sane person seriously suggest – or believe – that this elusive and ethereal quality can be boxed up and popped through one’s letterbox?

Surely, the magic of Christmas is an outlook, a perspective, a state of mind? It is reflected in the selfless and kind actions and thoughts of humanity. It could perhaps be explained as the winter manifestation of unconditional love. How could anyone suggest that thus can be physically quantified and purchased?

More sadly, it overtly implies that you can achieve this blessed and happy state by simply flashing your cash – that it is not necessary to exert yourself in any way, that you do not have to actually do anything yourself, you can simply buy it. How tragic. No wonder so much depression and despair follows the Midwinter holiday season!

The final straw which prompted me to write this post was when I opened a mail order catalogue from which I sometimes buy clothes for my menfolk. This particular mail-out contained an extra Christmas section. Among the items was listed a ‘singing dancing Christmas pudding – delightful fun – great entertainment for all your Christmas guests’. Words fail me. It might amuse little children, but can you really envisage your adult friends and family gleefully watching a plush pudding with white custard hair and a red cherry top-knot jigging about on your beautifully set Christmas dinner table? Have we all completely lost our senses? Is this what ‘Christmas’ comes down to?

I cringe as I hear those dreaded words ‘Black Friday’, which for many of the larger retail businesses has now become ‘Black November’. Of all the more recently human-generated retail traditions, this surely has to be the most despicable. in essence, it encourages and promotes the very worst aspects of human nature, ruthless avarice and greed.

What do you truly want from your Midwinter/Christmas celebration this year? If you could have anything at all as a gift under your Christmas tree, what would it be? What is the most precious thing that is within your power to give to a loved one?  I can guarantee that if you think deeply about it, your answers mostly involve the intangible qualities of life: time, good health, peace of mind, comfort, courage, love….

Before you  grab some over-priced piece of irrelevance in your panic-stricken seasonal shopping spree around the stores, or overheated trawl of the internet, just stop for a minute to think about what that person might really want… or need. One of my most treasured gifts was to receive a super-strong stainless steel, sharp bladed garden spade which faithfully served me for many years and gave me huge pleasure.

Bringing the two principles of giving of oneself and supplying something which people might want or need, I try to make at least some of my own gifts. Last week I went on a Christmas shopping foray, but many of the items I purchased were to make things from: material, thread, pipe-cleaners, felt. I also bought a bag of oranges and some dark chocolate from which I shall be candying the orange peel and dipping it in melted chocolate to make the most gastronomically sumptuous (yet simple) gifts. Far from perfect, but absolutely delicious and definitely my own.

So, stop and think. What do you wish to give and how can you achieve it? If it is something intangible, you can always convey your intention by writing it down in a seasonal card or simply on paper and giving that, so long as you make sure that you follow through with your promises.

I wish you all an alternative and, perhaps, very different but far more satisfying and happy Christmas shopping experience this year.