It's that time of year again: Christmas carollers are on our street corners, shopping centres are open longer and later, and Santa is in annual residency in the High Street shops. For many parents in Austerity Britain however, Christmas will be a time of worry and stress.
We know from our work supporting families that Christmas is another key pinch point for the family budget. At a time of rising food bills and soaring fuel costs Christmas adds further pressure to already stretched family finances.
But parents stressed out about buying the latest toy or gadget for their kids should take a step back. For many young people we spoke to for our All I Want for Christmas report, Christmas isn't all about having the latest toy, its about a chance to have quality time with their parents and extended family.
The marketeers would have us believe that children and young people's demands are materialistic and high. But when we interviewed young people about what they wanted for Christmas, a rather different story emerged.
We polled a snapshot of the young people we work with, asking them to rank in order of preference their three most important aspects of Christmas. The majority chose spending time with my family as their first or second choice, over options such as extra Christmas food, receiving a present you have asked for and time off school. When asked whether it was important to receive a present asked for or any present, most of the children said it was more important to receive any present.
Chiefly, children want Christmas to be about fun family activities such as playing board games, decorating the home and tree and sitting down to a family meal together.
Children said over and over again that all they want for Christmas is a top family lunch with extended family too - they prize time with grannies and granddads, aunts and uncles.
Family activities such as settling down to watch a DVD or dusting off the Monopoly were all said to be great ways to enjoy the festive fun. And bingo was still the favourite of one!
They also want Mums and Dads who are separated to make the effort to be together on Christmas day, to provide kids with that added special something and to reduce stress and worry on the big day.
Of course parents will want to give their children the best ,and the children and young people we talked to weren't saying no to any presents at all, or that there weren't presents they wouldn't prefer to receive! However their parents should sleep a little easier knowing that it's the meaningful family memories that are the real gifts this Christmas. Even if parents can't afford the gifts of choice, providing quality time, fun and opportunities to socialise will go a long way with their kids.
If you want to read what the children we work with have to say about Christmas you can read our All I Want for Christmas Report here.
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