Baby’s first Christmas is a big event for mum and dad, but the infant usually ignores the presents and chews the wrapping paper. Things step up a gear for two-year-olds, who like the presents but still prefer the paper (perhaps you should just wrap the cardboard box and keep the presents for next year). At three, children usually enjoy the whole package, from visiting Santa, leaving him a mince pie, hanging up the stocking and tearing into the presents. We had a problem in the Timpson household, because one of our children was born on Boxing Day and expected a third lot of presents on December 27.

My late wife, Alex, was probably the most enthusiastic present buyer the world has ever seen. She could even keep up with the latest gizmos required by teenagers and the clothes that suited our children in their twenties and thirties. She started buying in September – well before Cliff released his latest Christmas single. But even Alex found it difficult to find the right gift for any relative over 40, although they were all polite enough to look pleased and say thank you.

Perhaps our irritation with the commercial hype is the suggestion that Christmas is all about buying gifts, going to parties and stuffing ourselves full of turkey and chocolates. Of course, Christmas should be more about people than possessions. 

For a few years, I was involved in the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and discovered that December is their quietest month of the year. But clients flock in at the beginning of January, with debt and family issues top of the list. Problems are put on hold over Christmas, but the traditional family festive gathering doesn’t always create feelings of goodwill.

On the positive side, Christmas is the peak period for charitable fundraising and giving time to good causes, like the lunch that a friend of mine will be serving to a party of disadvantaged people on Christmas Day. Let’s hope the festive music blaring out in November is helping to create a more generous spirit this Christmas. 

Sir John Timpson is chairman of the high-street services provider, Timpson.

Send him a question at [email protected] and read more answers from his Ask John column here


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