Over the last few years my love of the festive season has faded somewhat. Somewhere along the line the fun and anticipation was replaced by stress and headaches. I'm not sure when it changed, maybe it was once my children were no longer living with me, or maybe during the hectic few years when my husband and I were always working through the holidays, or maybe it was when financial pressures made the whole damn thing a nightmare.
I always did my best, I'd shop and cook and decorate with the best of them but the shine and sparkle had gone. I felt I was dragging myself, kicking and screaming, through all the festivities. Last year we didn't manage to get to see our families, I couldn't afford to buy for half the people I wanted to and we were both ill from Christmas Eve through to New Year.
This year was shaping up to be more of the same.
But not now. I woke up a few mornings ago and thought WHAT ON EARTH AM I DOING?
I can't wave a magic wand and improve our finances overnight. I can't turn back the clock and create more time to do everything. I can't wipe out my husband's unhappy childhood memories of Christmas. What I can do is change my attitude towards it all and make our Yule the bloody best it can be.
I've reinstated a tradition my sister in law and I developed when the children were tiny and we were broke. I've set a £3 maximum limit on yuletide spending per person. Yes, you read that right. THREE WHOLE POUNDS.
When we first came up with the idea nearly twenty years ago it was a £1.50 limit but I'm allowing for inflation! The children were small and happy with colouring books and such like from their auntie, and us adults had fun hunting out the weirdest, wackiest gifts we could find for the least amount of money. Gift opening was a real hoot, and it soon spread throughout the family. Christmas day would guarantee a string of hilarious phone calls 'What did so and so get you? Have you worked out what it is yet?' Over the years, as our financial situations improved, we stopped doing it. Well now its back.
I've called everyone and told them what I'm doing, after all I don't want anyone to be offended if they've spent a lot when I haven't. Everyone is fine about it, they are all tightening their belts too, and most are really keen to join in. We are all making exceptions for our own children, and maybe grandchildren who are old enough to be excited, but otherwise it is a £3 MAXIMUM spend. And I really do mean that's the maximum. The cheaper the better. 50p? Brilliant. You get extra points for that (yes, we keep score. It all adds to the fun).
O.K so it takes a bit more time as it involves really thinking about the gifts or making them by hand but isn't that so much better than running into Boots on your lunch break and grabbing a load of their 3 for 2 offers? Of course it is. I'm taking the 'its the thought that counts' concept to the extreme. You've heard of extreme sports? Well nothing beats EXTREME FESTIVE SHOPPING, not for the faint hearted. Forget White Christmas... welcome to my white knuckle Yule.
Try it, its fun. And best of all I'm looking forward to Yule with a childlike anticipation I haven't felt in years.