Why I Believe in the Magic of Christmas Shopping


If there’s one thing that makes people shrivel up like a raisin at the mere thought of it, it’s Des Lynam in the nude. If there’s another, it’s Christmas shopping.

Not only does it represent probably one of the nastiest features of the Pagan festival, but it can be a brain-melting, patience-sapping experience. Do you ever find yourself stuck behind a turgid, congested throng of human beings making their way though a doorway and think to yourself, “I bet there’s somebody at the front of this crowd languidly sauntering along the pathway, head in the clouds, browsing at their leisure because they have all the  time in the world to window-shop and waste other people’s precious time.” You imagine this person being a self-centred sociopath with a hook-nose, a criminal record and most disturbing of all, a pram.

But for some reason, I hold these infuriating elements of the Christmas shopping experience close to my hate-filled heart. I complain about them with a kind of affection, that I only reserve for my older brother and the Royal Mail.

I like going into shops to see gifts lined out for everyone to mull over, to wonder whether Jason would like that, to think about whether it’s really Helen’s style, to wonder how in the world you finally found the perfect gift for the hardest person to buy a present for.

The cashier working in Boots is polite, but you can tell she can’t wait for her last shift so she can finally get a proper break and be able to give the people she loves the things that she thinks they will love.


The kids are off school so families are out in packs -and for some reason Christmas makes unruly toddlers and crying babies a little easier to take. After all, Jesus was a crying baby once too, so maybe we soften more to the wailing at Christmas. Baby Jesus probably woke up everyone staying at the Inn. One is only human – even the son of God probably got on the guests’ nerves.* I am not a kid person, but I can’t help cracking a smile when a young, innocent little munchkin waves at the man dressed in a Santa suit riding in the Santa bus and him waving right back. Their eyes always sparkle with wonder and excitement, emotions we have tried to suppress in adulthood, because it’s not cool and shut up Santa, we have to check Facebook.

It’s dark by four o’clock these days and the twinkling lights in the street against the backdrop of the pitch-black night cloaks the sky – it’s romantic, melancholy and nostalgic all at the same time. There’s always a Christmas busker singing carols nearby, voice nearly being drowned out by Fairytale of New York blaring from the pub  around the corner and everyone is bound together by a common goal – to get to Christmas Day. There’s a sense of anticipation in the atmosphere and as you cross the street or come outside a shop, you might catch a brief whiff of vanilla or cinnamon or nutmeg or something that makes you think about a time when you were young and naive and maybe misinformed, but when Christmas was genuinely the absolute best time of the year.


Happy Christmas, everyone!


Emotional Expense


It’s a quiet Sunday and there’s nothing else for it. The purse hasn’t been out in a while and it’s getting a bit antsy. Sure, it’s been to the local Sainsbury’s and back, maybe it’s been taken out in front of the sexy coffee barista early in the morning in the past couple of days. But no, it hasn’t seen the silky-smooth cream till of Zara or the faux-artisan wooden cashier at Anthropologie in donkeys. Now, it can almost sense the feeling of restlessness in its owner. Emotions are running high, dissertation proposal deadlines are looming, dracula-like, over the head of its master and it knows, keenly, that shit is about to get real.

Is there a wake-up call quite as blantant as purchasing a £16 Vanilla & Fig candle from Anthropologie when you can barely afford to feed yourself? I doubt it. But the expensive indulgence is so seductive. For a sweet, clandestine moment, a broke student with serious anxiety about future employment can pretend that buying a candle in Anthrologie is something they can justify by whipping out their monthly income. The thing is, I don’t have a monthly income. I have money from my summer job and a student loan that makes me feel guilty any time I spend it on something frivolous (see: £16 candle).

On balance, the guilt I do feel at spending small-ish amounts of money frequently outweighs the pleasure I feel from the item itself. Is it just me? So many of my purchases lie at the bottom of my wardrobe after a few wears because they were emotional purchases, fueled not by true desire, but impulse. Feel as sorry for them as you feel for the other woman used by a cheat to fulfil an urge, then left alone in bed the next morning as they return to their long-term partner.

Of course, there are exceptions – many of my impulse buys have been sale items I had to have there and then, which subsequently turned into long-loved staples. But they are the exception and the money I’ve seen on my bank statements that has been wasted on purchases that mean I have a smaller budget for buying Christmas presents fills me with sorrow.

So I’ve decided: instead of buying items that take my attention on a sneaky trip to Zara, I will only buy items that are truly gorgeous, that I can see being in my wardrobe forever. No more trend pieces unless I think they can last pass the fad (cropped waist-tied trousers, you’re still on trial). So it looks like the purse will have to make do with being whipped out at Aldi every week, only to buy broccoli and feta cheese . My purse won’t feel good, but I will.