Window No. 10

The first part of most people's Christmas day (not all, I admit) is the ritual of opening presents - checking the tags, handing them out to the right people, then ripping off the paper with cheerful abandon. Gift giving has become one of the main elements of the festive season - writing a list of what you'd like, planning what you'll get everyone and how much you can spend, looking out for bargains in the shops, buying the gifts themselves, wrapping them, arranging them around the tree (after first hiding them in a cupboard or wardrobe for a couple of weeks), handing them out and opening them. As parents, we can feel especially pressured into following this routine. We want our children to adore their presents so we spend more and more on them.

My parents were just the same. I'd get the "We can't afford as much this year" speech at the beginning of every December and yet I'd still have a pile of presents on the day. Of course, we'd spend January eating cabbage soup and baked beans on toast to make up for the luxury of Christmas. My father wouldn't let us put the fire on as much ("You've plenty of jumpers") and trips to the sweetie shop would be cancelled.

My favourite Christmas present ever was my first bicycle. It was red and white with a bell and a little basket at the back. I was probably four years old. Once opened, it sat in pride of place by the Christmas tree. I nagged my parents to take me out on it but it wasn't until the new year that my bicycle was christened. The reason that this was my favourite present isn't because of the item itself. It's my favourite because of the memories it provided of my father running a small child on a bicycle along a country lane, almost bent double as he tried to stop me wobbling. My mother called out things that I'm sure she thought were encouraging. I didn't hear them. I was concentrating on the pedals and the bell.

Another present I adored was my first camera. A warning to parents: beware giving your children cameras for Christmas unless you can get dressed and made-up before they open their gifts.

This is my mum. I don't think she was expecting the photography to start so early in the day.

You have  been warned.

Sometimes the best presents are the free ones - the time spent together, the laughter shared and the memories created. Those are the gifts that stay with us.

Some online free Christmas fun

Send a video from Santa to your child from the Portable North Pole. I do this for both my children each year, while they still believe in Father Christmas.

Track Santa's progress with NORAD. They also have some brilliant countdown online games.


  1. Fi, I love your memories because they remind me of my own. I'll never forget getting my first bike. And my sister does the Portable North Pole video for my daughter every year. It's such a great idea.

  2. Thanks, Kelly. My two love their PNP videos.

  3. Baked beans on toast!!! (You won't find that here in the States.) My first Christmas present was a bike as well. Can't remember the colour. Gives me an idea for a blog. Thanks Fi!


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