I trundle into town, a delightful bundle of parka and multicoloured wool. I arrive steaming into Brighton's Churchill Square shopping centre and walk briskly into Debenhams. I am stopped in my tracks by a scene dystopian in nature, apocalyptic in proportions: men square off before one another, fighting tooth and nail for cheap perfume and scratchy lingerie. Red-faced parents barge their way through the crowd with giant strollers containing one tiny child and fourteen enormous shopping bags. The sound of squabbling couples and anxious gabbling of whether Steve "really needs another juicer" fill the air on what is now known as 'Panic Saturday'.
I pause a few seconds, waiting for this contagious atmosphere to grab me by the throat or burst Alien-style from my stomach. And then I come to, as if waking from a bad dream, and remember it's all OK: I have absolutely nothing to buy for Christmas except an open return ticket to Birmingham. That's right, shock horror, my family simply "doesn't do" Christmas presents.
I am not an atheist, killjoy, Mormon or member of any religious denomination that does not celebrate Christmas. My family and I have always celebrated it and always will. Christmas decorations grace my grandmother's home. Sherry (actually, any booze you can imagine) is on tap for a fortnight. Listening to Carols from Kings is a Christmas Eve ritual that goes way back to my childhood. So why don't we do presents? Are we just miserable so-and-sos?
The decision was based on the sheer panic and vast quantities of (nonexistent) cash pumped into that one day. The stomach ulcer burned into each and every one of us and accumulation of diverse but all equally useless and unwanted impulse buys sparked some revolutionary thinking: what if we, like, didn't bother with presents and, like, just enjoyed hanging out together? As we all got older, flew the nest, settled in different locations and entered the world of work this maverick decision made more and more sense. I for one refuse to fill my precious free time stressing about whether my grandmother would prefer sickly bath bombs or terrifying shapewear.
The exceptions to the Christmas presents embargo are, of course, children. Even I wouldn't snatch this away from them. Christmas is a magical time of year and present giving, if you play it right, is a wonderful part of that. However, I do strongly believe that once you are a GROWN UP Christmas becomes a different but equally magical creature...not the enormous beast so many of us come to perceive it as. At the end of the day Christmas is about coming home (wherever and whatever that may be for you), taking stock and (swiftly) taking off to start 2015 with a bang. So, Merry Christmas one and all, see you the other side!