What does Christmas mean to me?

I love Christmas, it’s one of my favourite times of the year.

People often say that Christmas is for children, but I’d beg to differ – it can be for adults too.

My own children are now older, and when it comes to Christmas lists, they struggle to decide what they want. Instead of the more traditional presents, they tend to want vouchers, money or online computer games. My teenage son who is the youngest has asked for a few small surprises so that he still has presents to unwrap.  To be honest, I’m the same, I still love that anticipation of guessing what is in the gift wrapping.

If I think back to my childhood, very few presents come to mind, but one I do remember, was a bed for my dolly. My sister and I had a fight, she pushed me, and I fell on the doll’s bed and broke it. My dad fixed it with tape, and I continued to use it for years.

Another year, Mum asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I replied I didn’t mind, as long as it wasn’t a watch!

You’ve guessed.  On Christmas Day I got a watch. My dad, who loved watches, had already bought it, and even after hearing I didn’t want one, refused to take it back. He told me it had been bought with love and I had to accept it. However, I sulked all day.

I still have that watch, and although it no longer works, it reminds me of my dad, who sadly died when I was 31. But it also reminds me of how selfish I was that year.

I hope my children understand how lucky they are in receiving the presents they do. Each year, I’m reminded of how unfair Christmas can appear, especially to those less fortunate than us. Some children will get nothing, in poorer parts of the world and also in lower income families in our own community. Those children are as deserving as any other child. Christmas, if you celebrate it, isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. We have to be grateful for what we do have.

In my business for the last couple of years I’ve donated to the Swindon Christmas Toy appeal in the UK. Last year the appeal provided presents for 700 local children. Hearing how many families have already been referred to the charity, I suspect that number of children deserving of a present will rise again this year.

What I love most about Christmas is being with family. As a child, our house was crammed with people. My grandparents would arrive, although we had to wait for them before opening presents, which meant our anticipation to find out what the presents were, was stretched to breaking point. The back room always had a blazing fire, a table heaving with the weight of Christmas food, crackers with paper hats and terrible jokes, and Mum and Dad bustling around cooking and serving the food.

Other relatives would turn up, and the festivities and traditions continued throughout the day. We all listened to the Queen’s speech together, and by tea time, Mum and Dad were so tired, they’d often argue.

The most amazing experience for us as children, we had a visit from Father Christmas. He actually came to our house!

Around tea time there’d be a knock on the window, and there waiting at the front door, would be Santa. He had a large sack, and he’d pull out a small gift for each of us. This happened every single year, and we felt so special, thanks to his visit.

I was five years older than my sister, and although it did take me a couple of years to work out who it was, I didn’t tell her, because I wanted the magic to continue for her.

Now, my husband and I have tried to create the special magic of Christmas for our own children. For us it’s all about being together to celebrate, with family and friends.

We’ve made up our own traditions, one of which is that our house is lit by so many lights, I’m sure it is visible from space! My husband decorates the outside of the house (including the caravan), and inside, every space possible is covered with Christmas decorations and ornaments.

Our Christmas tree is packed full with a variety of different coloured baubles, tinsel and trinkets, in many different colours. Nothing matches – it’s all about sparkle and fun.

We also have a number of musical scenes, that all play different tunes. These have to be turned off, a couple of hours after they have been put on display, otherwise, as there are so many, the noise would drive us all mad.

A tradition that has grown naturally, is that each year we visit a local garden centre which has a winter wonderland. As you go around the centre, on their predetermined route, you pass through different spaces, full to bursting with different coloured baubles and decorations, plus little Christmas tableaux. It has become such a tradition that even now, when the children are teenagers, they still ask when we’re going there.

For me, Christmas is not all about presents, but is a time to be with my family, sharing our love, and our joy of Christmas based on mine and my husband’s childhood memories.

I wish you a very happy Christmas.