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THE BEST THING MUM EVER DID WAS CANCEL XMAS

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Marianne says she couldn't have been more than 14 when her mother announced that she was cancelling Christmas presents

Looking back, I couldn’t have been more than 14 when my mother announced that she was cancelling Christmas – or at least Christmas presents. ‘Your father is sick, there is no money coming in and we can’t afford to buy you girls anything this year,’ she announced one Sunday evening in December. ‘I know it’s hard but that’s life and it won’t do you any harm to go without for once.’

I could tell she’d practised this little speech in her head. It came out very quickly. Even so, I didn’t believe her. It was true that dad was having health problems and his business was struggling, but as a teenager that meant nothing to me.

Instead I took this to be a new version of the annual Christmas lecture about how spoilt we were and how when she was a child, she was delighted with an orange and a bar of chocolate.

This was her way of telling us not to expect too much and to be grateful for what we got, I thought. So I humoured her. ‘Fine,’ I said, while mentally writing a list of all the clothes, toiletries and books I wanted — not to mention the CD player that I’d been dropping hints about since September. My friend Jane was getting one, so it seemed a matter of life and death that I get one too . . . even if things are a bit tight.

Not that I had any concept of what ‘a bit tight’ really was. Until that point in our short lives, my two sisters and I had been given everything we wanted. Sindy houses, new bikes, new dresses. If Mum and Dad had experienced lean years they kept it from us

So were we grateful? Were we heck. Every Christmas morning there would be rows because one sister had more gifts than the other or because the roller skates were not exactly the kind we’d asked for.

We were awful. I actually shudder to think of how spoilt we were. But no more. A combination of the last recession (this was the early Nineties), Dad’s bad heart and mum’s disgust at the little monsters she’d created meant that Santa was hanging up his hat.

That fateful Christmas morning there were no presents under the tree. Not a one. At first we thought she was playing a trick — we looked behind the sofa and under the dining room table. ‘Mum, where are the presents?’ I demanded.I told you there would be no presents,’ she said.

‘You got us absolutely nothing?’ I spat out the words in disbelief.

My mother’s voice went very quiet as she folded her arms across her dressing gown and said: ‘You’ve got a clean house that I’ve been scrubbing all week, a turkey that I got up at 7am to prepare, a fridge full of food that your father paid for . . . I don’t call that nothing.’

And that was that. There were tears and tantrums, of course, and I think we may have threatened to call ChildLine — so acute was our distress — but we survived. What’s more we learnt a valuable lesson: if you can’t afford it, you have to do without.

It’s 20 years since Mum made her stand and we haven’t really had Christmas presents in our house since. When money was a bit more plentiful, we’d get the odd jumper or pair of tights, but that was it.

What started as financial necessity developed into a full-blown militant stance against Christmas consumption. Neighbours and friends were banned from bringing presents into the house because: ‘All this spending is not what Christmas is about.’

I was thinking of my mother’s stand this week when I read research about the huge pressure parents feel this Christmas. According to a study from the Family and Parenting Institute, nine out of ten parents worry that Christmas makes their children more materialistic, while more than half worry that their offspring will be disappointed with their presents.

Dr Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Institute, said that television ads in particular are putting families under pressure to buy more than they can afford, at a time when many parents are already feeling ‘huge financial strain’.

In fact, one in three Britons will go into debt to pay for Christmas this year.

Isn’t it time for all this madness to stop? While I’m not suggesting that people do as my mother did and ban presents completely, surely it’s time to rein things in? By all means buy a few choice gifts for your children —but is it really necessary to spend £500 in PC World for a 12-year-old, as my friend has just done? And it’s not just children’s presents. Every year I see colleagues running around buying gifts they cannot afford for their husband’s aunt, their son’s teacher and their nextdoor neighbours — and I want to scream: ‘Why are you spending £50 on a scented candle for an in-law that you don’t see from one end of the year to the next?’

Why pay £400 for a coat for your husband, then spend most of 2012 in a cold sweat about your credit card bill? You could just buy it in the sales two days later. Now finally, it seems it’s not just the Power clan who are saying bah humbug to presents.

This month financial expert Martin Lewis, whose website Moneysavingexpert.com has one million hits a month, has been mounting a campaign to ban Christmas presents, arguing that people should stop buying presents they can’t afford and setting up an obligation for others to do the same. His target is not children — but ‘the ever-growing range of people we feel obligated to buy for: teachers, colleagues, neighbours, extended families and more.’

‘Call me Scrooge but things have gone a little too far when it comes to Christmas gifts,’ he says. ‘We’re giving presents that won’t be used and obligating others to do the same.

‘I get the joy of giving; but we need to think about the impact on recipients, too. Generosity could hurt, not help. By giving to someone (or their children) you create an obligation on them to do the same, whether they can afford it or not. In these financial climes, sometimes the best gift is to release someone from this obligation.’ What’s more, he argues, most of the time we are spending our money buying things people don’t even want — which is wasteful in every way.

‘From naff socks from Aunty Joan to talking novelty presents from workmates, unwanted and unused gifts are sent all the time. Many people sit panicking with a to-buy-for list muttering “must get something, must get anything” – yet why spend for the sake of it? It’s not helpful for our finances or landfills.’ Martin, I couldn’t agree more, You’re preaching to the choir! It’s two decades since Santa stopped visiting our house. As adults, my sisters and I sometimes buy each other gifts if we see something perfect but more often than not we agree not to bother.

So are our Christmases miserable? Far from it. They’re relaxed, fun and hassle-free because we have done the unthinkable — we have escaped the tyranny of Christmas presents, not to mention post-Christmas debt.

I know this is easy for me to say because I don’t have three children who feel their lives will end without the latest trainers or iPad — but take it from me, the world will not end if your little darlings don’t get all they want this year.

Doing with less, if not without, might help them to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas — falling asleep during the Queen’s speech, eating too many Quality Street . . . oh, and spending time with loved ones. That, after all, is surely the best present of all?

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Good read

Christmas n birthdaya were always present free anyway, in my day that is

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lol @ not getting presents at christmas...

i mean there is pain... and then there is PAIN

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i wish i could do this

just b like to fam n frends ''hey lets just meet up and get drunk and high and jolly''

but when the whole fam is buying you a present, kinda hard not to want to buy them a gift back

vicious cycle of love and pain

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normal

u get me

in my fam christmas aint a biggie about presents we were broke niggas when i was young why we gonna stress ourselves for some nonsense about giving presents

the munch was our present

(i may be exaggerating slightly)

thats why in that tram experience thread when the woman that got shifted realised she was gonna be inside over xmas

white ppl love them some xmas

them niggas will put themsevles into debt to give their people xmas pressies - "that shit dont make sense to me"- jay z

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u know what

im just gonna download bare standup shows

and burn them to dvd for family n frends

the gift of laughter, illegally and free

arrest me

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imagine meeting up with your friends

i got a bike

i got a ps2

i got a gameboy

... i got some rice and chicken

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lol it werent badd like that i defo exaggerating i meant it was like i would get 1 major pressie every couple years but generaaly presnets were really expected of me maybe past the age of 8.

and when i define pressies i dont means like socks, jumpers and shit

im talking PRESENTS psone, n64,nokia 3210 etc them type ting

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My mum bought me a laptop in like 02 times when no-one had one.

Still have the receipt it was like £1800!

That was my birthday and xmas present for like 3-4 years.

I also got a Playstation 1 once

Every other Xmas it was a boxers and socks ting

prefer it that way tbh.

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I like the family gathering more than anything these times, cos anything I want I just buy it.

But behave @ not having xmas presents when growing up

NES, SNES, Master System etc all given at Xmas for me

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yeah the blacks on 1 side the whites on another is that right gayle?

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normal

u get me

in my fam christmas aint a biggie about presents we were broke niggas when i was young why we gonna stress ourselves for some nonsense about giving presents

the munch was our present

(i may be exaggerating slightly)

thats why in that tram experience thread when the woman that got shifted realised she was gonna be inside over xmas

white ppl love them some xmas

them niggas will put themsevles into debt to give their people xmas pressies - "that shit dont make sense to me"- jay z

just to see happiness on their white kids faces... go all out on their credit cards and take out 10-20 bag loans and all sorts

amazing stuff

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No one got enough P to buy the shit I actually want. Christmas is a money spinning business.

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It's really not about getting yourself in debt to get presents. Get your money in order beforehand and if not oh well.

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It's really not about getting yourself in debt to get presents. Get your money in order beforehand and if not oh well.

It's really not about getting yourself in debt to get presents. Get your money in order beforehand and if not oh well.

Trust....which meant

NES, SNES, Master System etc all given at Xmas for me

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best xmas ever was when i got a game boy colour with pokemon yellow

I dont think ive ever been so happy in my life

i was a good boy for months

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NINTENDO SIXTY-FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

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NINTENDO SIXTY-FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

When I unwrapped this and saw it came with golden eye

295pzif.gif More awsome here

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Christmas is useless, only thing i like about its the food.

All this meeting up with family shit isn't a big deal for me, i see my family nearly every week.

Christmas day always has the shittest tv as well, definitely will be on my ps3 all day while eating Jeloff.

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