To Be Frank, December 9, 2014: Giving or spending?

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Just sixteen days to go now, and conflicting emotions are rushing through my head: panic, dread, and an increasing certainty that I’ve forgotten to do something, buy something, or most likely both.

Am I really the only one who wishes we could just fast-forward to spring and be done with it all?

I’ve never understood how people manage to afford to go mad in the January sales, mere days after they’ve finished, in financial terms, going stark staring bonkers for Christmas.

But now we’ve got something else to contend with – Black Friday. Except that it isn’t just a black Friday ... it’s a black four days. Or as one e-mail I received the following day gleefully boasted, Black Friday Rebooted (again, and again, presumably).

But at least it enables you to do some cut-price Christmas shopping, I hear you say.

Really? By an amazing coincidence, the very present you wanted to buy all along suddenly appears in Black Very Long Weekend, instantly saving you loads of cash? Is that how it works?

Or is it that big bargains – for something, anything – are dangled in front of people, commercial blood lust takes over, and they simply can’t resist? And buy something they perhaps didn’t even realise they actually wanted until they saw how cheap it was ...

Even if, by happy coincidence, they did find something they truly needed at a knock-down price, does that really excuse people virtually fighting to death for a new television? Spatulas at dawn for a new kitchen appliance, anyone?

And honestly, how DO people afford it all? “Credit,” said The Other Half’s dad, with a cynicism I secretly admired. Oh dear me, I do really hope that’s not true ...

There’s been an increasing move in recent years towards people making donations to charity instead of sending Christmas cards. And this has now evolved into a few brave souls doing the same thing with presents. Letting it be known that they’re not – gasp! – buying loads of stuff that people possibly don’t want or need, but making a single gift to charity instead.

What a good idea. And – if I say so myself, even though I’m not religious – how much closer to the spirit of what the whole thing is supposed to be about in the first place.

Except that it won’t work, will it? We are so conditioned to worship at the altar of commercial greed that opting out of present-buying would make you seem nothing less than just plain mean, and a bit of a freak.

The Other Half – who I will tell you right now, is a far better person than me – says the most important thing you can give at Christmas is your time.

Or as John Lennon put it: “Last night the wife said / Oh boy, when you’re dead / You don’t take nothing with you but your soul ... Think!”