Saturday, 31 December 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Putting the hectic school routine behind me for what will amount to almost a month and consigning my HBOS battling files to a cupboard for a similar period, has meant I have finally been able to turn my attentions to preparations for our much anticipated family focused Christmas. However, being someone who has always enjoyed the pleasure of giving, Christmas continues to prove challenging on this front due to our much reduced financial circumstances. Taking solace in the middle eastern proverb that suggests, “If you have much, give your wealth and if you have little, give your heart” I have endeavoured to do the very best I can with the limited resources available to me by applying a completely different approach to our festive celebrations which makes good use of both my heart and my head.

In the past I would have purchased Christmas wreaths, garlands and table decorations to decorate my home and give to my friends. However this year, instead of parting with any hard earned cash in exchange for these wholesome signs of Christmas, I held a table decoration making lunch for a few of my friends and neighbours. Because foliage arrived with each guest and (courtesy of the M & S waste-sale) I was able to supply the receptacles for our floral masterpieces along with a light lunch, I was also able to create an abundance of decorative displays for no financial outlay.  In addition, my children were kept cheerfully and productively entertained by this hive of kitchen industry which  turned a thrift driven exercise into wonderfully social pre- Christmas event that all those who attended are keen to repeat next year. My home has never been better dressed and friends to whom I have gifted my hand made creations have been delighted with a caringly constructed illustration of just how much I value them.  

In the past I would have not only made a Christmas cake but I would also have bought only the best cuts of meat along with a variety of luxury Christmas produce to share with family and friends over the festive period. This year a close friend arrived mid December with a beautifully decorated Christmas cake she commissioned her daughter in law to make me as a gift and, instead of competing with the supermarket crowds, I have managed to ear mark and freeze M & S waste sale produce over the past few weeks for consumption during the festive period. By avoiding the madness of pre-Christmas shoppers,  not only have I had time to create homemade Christmas fair that has ensured all our  guests have been fed like Kings, but I have achieved this without any extra expense.

In the past I would have tried to fulfil the majority of the requests on my children’s lengthy Christmas lists and yet still regularly failed to deliver something I had not realised they had set their hearts on. This year just as I have done over the past two, I managed my children’s expectations by reminding them of our reduced circumstances in an effort to avoid disappointment.  I asked relatives to gift them money rather than presents and promised my children an opportunity to spend it in the January sales in ensure purchases of even greater value. This has left me free to buy five children and six grandchildren a few inexpensive trinkets I know they will enjoy and in so doing resulted in a happier and more balanced attitude to present giving all round.


In the past I would have happily thrown several pounds at a time into the charitable collection buckets found on every corner during the run up to Christmas.  However, for three years consecutive years I have squirmed in discomfort at my inability to help the less fortunate in any way. Nevertheless, this year my husband and I received the most heart warming opportunity of all time and it gave us the chance to do something positive for those people who, unlike us, will not be sharing in a family focused Christmas this year. Thanks to the compassion of one M & S manager who, no doubt, was equally as disgusted my husband by the mountains of un-purchased fresh turkey he had been instructed to throw away, my husband was permitted to have a trolley full for our personal use. It was in this way we were able, at eleven o’clock on Christmas Eve, to redirect twenty of the thousands of M & S turkeys destined for disposal as compost, to the kitchens for the homeless via a friend.

Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.”

I am hoping, thanks to my husband’s efforts, a little humanitarian Christmas spirit and several Marks and Spencer’s turkeys, several hundred truly poverty stricken individuals far less fortunate that ourselves will benefit from a hot meal this Christmas.

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