Best gift you can give your kids this Christmas is not to spoil them

The ‘recovery’ is in full swing so, as champions of splurge, Irish people will no doubt spend money accordingly this Christmas. The idea that we have disposable cash again, even though we don’t, ensures there’s a chance we might ‘go mad.’

International studies indicate that Irish people spend more at Christmas than Americans or Europeans. Last year, according to Retail Ireland, we spent €2,654 in shops, €870 more than other months, and €4.5 billion on Christmas in total. In 2015, revealed that the average Irish parent spends €254 on Christmas presents per child, while 16pc spend up to €600 on each child.

I was thinking more along the lines of €25.40 rather than €254 on my daughter. She hasn’t asked for anything and has no lists. She doesn’t know Santa brings gifts either. All of this is handy. She’s three so that may come, but I’m not going to cultivate the idea of grandiose rewards for let’s face it, no work.

I do believe and have witnessed the old adage – spoilt kids make spoilt adults being mostly true, unfortunately.

Now there are different types of spoilt. Simply giving too many gifts isn’t necessarily going to have a negative effect in a child, but overall, it can take the fun out of life. We have so few years where true magic exists, and a cornucopia of riches can cause indifference which occurs as we age anyway, so why speed it up?

Children have simple means. They just want to play and be around their parents as much as possible- not teenagers, but the younger ones. If all they have is 40 year old Lego, that’s all they’ll want. It appeals to their imagination, which we ignore these days. I can vouch for this. Its the best.

If they get a gifts thrown their way every time you leave a shop, then the magic of the individual gift disappears and they will expect them regularly.  

Maybe those who canonised Saint Nicholas, the fourth century bishop, famous gift giver and patron saint of children, brewers and pawnbrokers, preempted flagrant consumerism and consumption, after his and Jesus birth merged together to become what is commonly referred to as Christmas.

But I can’t imagine children were gifted as frequently then as they are now. Saint Nicholas sidekick, Knecht Ruprecht, who existed in German folklore foiled the benevolent gift giver and threatened to thrash or abduct disobedient children.

Luckily we live in more humane times, and Santa’s helpers are benign, exhausted creatures.

But does he have to fulfill these lengthy lists? In Germany, Santa comes on the 6th of December, the day Saint Nicholas died, and kids leave their boots outside their room, only to find them filled with chocolate treats the next day. The joy. Then on Christmas Eve, the Christkind comes bearing some gifts, not a high ace van full, just some. This is where the term Christkindl was born, in case you’re wondering.

I favour the way my German ancestors do things, especially how to decorate a tree. Having invented Christmas, they conduct their juletide affairs with tradition, dignity and taste. German kids don’t get as much spent on them as Irish kids do and they seem happy enough.

Less is more and they don’t do frenzied purchases just for the sake of it. An unfortunate reality of Christmas is people- like distant relatives, many of whom haven’t seen their nieces or god children all year, buy things without knowing their interests.

Twenty five percent of stuff we buy ends up being returned, whatever about the crap that gets chucked out. A lose, lose hugely wasteful scenario for all, especially the environment.

If you want to get something for a child, ring their mother- not the dad, and I don’t want to be sexist here, but they don’t care, then find out if swimming lessons are coming up, or maybe they need a voucher for shoes.

I’m unaware of what goes on in school yards, where kids compare gifts, but as parents we should downplay the lists for Santa. I sound like Nelly from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, but he brings what he brings.  

Young kids especially love the tree, the homemade Christmas decorations, the lights, so why bombard them with stuff they don’t ask for. 
Christmas can be magical if you have children, so gifting them our time is probably and nice experiences is the best thing we can do. Then cut of all contact with the outside world where children showboat large gifts until the whole thing blows over, then they should be grand.  And dig out some old lego.