Christmas shopping? Don't hate me, but I've got it wrapped
Santa has been a very busy girl. In fact, she was a busy girl quite some time ago but modesty and a policy of not mentioning the 'C' word too early prevented me from boasting.
I had all my Santa shopping done and dusted by mid-October. Everything was meticulously researched, bought and hidden weeks ago – right down to the smallest of stocking-fillers.
I have no other Christmas present shopping done and I won't be worrying about it until the last minute. So long as I know Santa will arrive with the right things on Christmas morning, that's all that matters.
I used to think friends who started their shopping in the summer were slightly mad. Now I understand. I learned my lesson a couple of years ago when I left the Santa responsibilities to the last minute along with everything else. That was fine until the entire house came down with a nasty vomiting bug.
Christmas was a disaster. Visitors were shouted at through the letter box to flee for their lives. Cards were written but never posted. The few presents that were bought and wrapped were dumped on the doorstep (with a note advising a good disinfectant wipe) for the lucky recipient to come and collect. We weren't able to buy much food so we decamped to my mum's house for the pretence of Christmas dinner, because of none of us could eat anyway.
Santa arrived but only in a half-hearted manner and thankfully my daughter was too young to notice the chaos. He looked a bit stingy, and also ruined the initial joy of a few gifts by forgetting the batteries. I forgot where I had hidden some of the things I had managed to buy. I was coming across little presents stuffed down the back of a wardrobe for months after. The notion of Santa Claus is a slightly contentious one in our household. My husband doesn't like the idea of lying to children or of someone randomly delivering toys to the house by sneaking around in the middle of the night. He'd prefer Katie to see the value of her parents working hard to earn what she gets for Christmas.
I don't agree with this but I do see that the pressure of being Santa for many parents is immense. Money is no object in the North Pole; no elves have been laid off in the recession. The theory is that each child (if they've been nice) should be showered equally, but that doesn't happen.
Pester-power, fuelled by the relentless ads that break up children's television at this time of year, also create difficulties for parents. How do you balance what are harsh financial realities for many families with the expectations of a dreaming child who has every faith the man in the big red coat will deliver?
Whether you like Santa or not, it's hard to go against the grain of society on this one. Christmas, for children at least, is about nothing else.
All of Katie's friends believe in Santa and telling her otherwise would cruelly ruin one of the most magical parts of childhood.
As I'm the one in charge of Christmas (except for food and cooking) I am so far winning the argument and Santa is safe for a few years yet. And every year (apart from *that* year) my husband has to agree I do a pretty good job of deciding what goes on Santa's list.
The look on a child's face when they first clock what has come down the chimney (even though we don't have one) is truly priceless.
So for this year, I can rest easy knowing that come war, famine or plague, Father Christmas's sack is packed and ready for delivery.
'The look on a child's face when they see what's come down the chimney is priceless'