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Kerry McLean: In my twenties I loved all those Christmas parties, but nothing beats the warm festive feeling of seeing my kids have fun

Christmas spirit: nothing beats the joy of children during the festive season
Christmas spirit: nothing beats the joy of children during the festive season

By Kerry McLean

I adore Christmas. I've never grown out of the excitement you feel as a child as the days in December slowly pass by, edging you ever nearer to the 25th. Even now, that bubble of enthusiasm has never burst, despite the fact that I'm now the official, overworked Santa Claus helper in our house.

Somehow, over the month of December, I manage to squeeze what feels like extra hours out of each day to allow for the multitude of festive chores I have on top of what is already an overly stuffed to do list.

Move over Jodie Whittaker - like many a mum before me, I have proved my worth as a female Time Lord long before she ever stepped foot in that police box…

While I don't begrudge the time I spend facilitating the festive season, I can't help but look back with envious eyes on the carefree Christmases of old. Come, take my hand in the style of Charles Dickens' Spirit of Christmas Past and I'll show you what I mean.

Christmas as a child is superb but not enough is made of the years between reaching adulthood and actually having to start behaving like one. I had a good long run at it, from the age of 18 until I was almost 30 when the addition of a mortgage and children brought me to my senses.

In those 10 or so years my festive season began in mid-November. I would cut back on what seemed to be unnecessary items, like proper food or heating, so I could afford to fly around the country and attend any and every party.

Every penny would go on buying new dresses and shoes, getting my hair done for big nights out and come January, my bank balance would always have a festive red glow to it.

But I wasn't overly concerned. As long as I could pick up some overtime in the following months, pay for the roof over my head and purloin enough tomato sauce sachets to eat with my budget packet of crackers until payday, I was happy.

And while it's not a diet I would recommend, I confess that having nothing but biscuits and condiments to eat, combined with an hour long walk to work and back each day to save the price of a bus ticket certainly left me in good shape for the celebrations.

While I worked and lived all around the world during that decadent decade, from London to Brittany, Glasgow to Kenya, I always made it back home for Christmas. For a few days I enjoyed being pampered and fed by my mum, meeting up with former school friends for fun nights out and at the end of each evening, my daddy would be there to collect me and bring me back home.

He'd also bung me a fiver here and there with the words, 'Have one for me sport'. I was spoilt rotten and, unsurprisingly, I loved every second.

Keeping with the Dickens' Christmas Carol theme, it's time to jump forward with the Spirit of Christmas Present...

Time is at a premium and I haven't enough spare to go out shopping for new clothes, never mind make it to many Christmas dos.

But don't get the idea that I'm sitting at home like Scrooge. With three youngsters, my evenings are taken up with carol concerts, orchestra performances, end-of-term drama productions and, my personal favourite, the nursery Nativity.

The sight of Mary carrying the baby Jesus doll in by the feet and chucking him into the manger head first and from across the room with a throw Brian O'Driscoll would have been proud of will be one that will stay with me for years.

I loved my mad, partying days but nothing fills me with that fuzzy, warm, festive feeling as much as seeing my kids enjoy themselves.

So, what would the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come show me?

The best of both worlds, I hope.

A house stuffed to bursting with happy and healthy family, children and eventually grandchildren, who will always come back to spend the holidays with me and my husband.

And I certainly wouldn't mind the odd party or two and some Christmas spirits of a different sort…

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