As my sister and I compared notes on our children's Christmas lists we were astonished to discover that the contents added up well over £1,000 – each. What with an Xbox 360, a Nintendo 3DS, a laptop, a Wii, plus a cornucopia of games, accessories and 'must-have' toys we would be lucky to buy the lot for a month's salary.
Our sons range in age from six to eight (I am not counting my two-year-old twins who are too young to express their desire for costly presents), but they are far from alone in their outrageously expensive tastes. Selfridges reported this week that the top request made to Santa in its grotto was for the £399 iPad 2, closely followed by the games consoles our boys coveted on their own lists. If this is what primary school children expect in their stockings I blanch at the wish list that will land in my lap once my children reach their teens.
I am no Scrooge and my boys' stockings will be bulging on Christmas morning, but with the cheap stocking fillers that I used to love as a child. Chocolate coins, silly jokes, a special mug and a book or two. That is more than enough to put a smile on their faces, without breaking the bank in the process.
My six-year-old son will probably get more pleasure out of the firecrackers and whoopee cushion he will unwrap on Christmas morning than he ever could from playing, glazed eyed with an iPad. Even if he doesn't, I know that I will be a lot less upset when these throwaway toys are lost or broken than I would be if he were to mislay or damage a present worth several hundred pounds, which, given that he is only six, would be inevitable.
I am not the only one who thinks it is about time we stopped relying on electronic entertainment and actually started to have fun as a family again. There has been a surge in the popularity of traditional board games and a recent survey found that six out of ten families would be playing one on this Christmas Day.
This is what Christmas memories are made of. I can hardly recall any of the presents I was given during my childhood, but I fondly remember the fierce battles over Monopoly, the family addiction to the Telly Addicts game on Christmas Day in 1989 and my late grandparents' unbeatable vocabulary on the Scrabble board.
The point is that Christmas isn't about expensive presents and I refuse to feel guilty that I won't be increasing the national debt by fulfilling any of the wishes on my sons' lists.
Would my sons look back in wonder at a Christmas when mum and dad's brows were furrowed with worry about the huge credit card bill they had run up emptying the shelves of local electronics store into their stockings. Or will their fond memories be of helping me to ice the Christmas cake complete with homemade marzipan penguins, or the wonky tree we simply couldn't get to stand up straight, or the Christmas when granny got uncharacteristically tipsy on sparkling wine? I know which I'd put my money on.
It's about time we reclaimed Christmas from Apple, Microsoft and Sony and returned to the simpler pleasures that make this festival so special, that way we can really give our children a day to remember.
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