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Angela Catterns
Friday, November 20, 2015

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By Angela Catterns

You can hear it coming like a distant steam train. Winding its way around the familiar annual landmarks like the Melbourne Cup Carnival, Halloween and Remembrance Day. As the train gets closer, you start to see the puffs of smoke and hear the Toot! Toot! and you know it’s not far off. There’s no stopping it now.

Christmas. It’s 5 weeks away.

The overly familiar songs are already on high rotation in  supermarkets and department stores. Decorations have been on sale for weeks and there are houses in my neighbourhood which are decked out in blinking fairy lights. Hard to tell if they’ve just been put up or they were left there from last year.

According to the latest Westpac Melbourne Institute survey, consumer sentiment has hit close to a two-year high. Many of us are apparently in the mood to start splashing money about for Christmas. Start splashing out? We should have begun months ago.

Round about now, I’m wishing I had heeded the advice of a caller to a radio show I once presented in Melbourne.

It was AFL Grand Final time and she rang in to confess that she had no interest whatsoever in the footy. Instead, she used Grand Final day to do her Christmas shopping. Genius!

There are no crowds in the shops, the roads are quiet, parking’s a dream and the staff are exceptionally helpful, in fact they’re positively thrilled to have someone to serve!

Such a great idea. If only I’d taken it on board.

Instead, there’s this manic, every-decreasing spiral towards Christmas Day. For the next 5 weeks, the weather’s getting hotter and the shops and streets are getting more crowded. And while you think you’ve got it all covered - all gift recipients accounted for - there’s always something or someone for whom you need to go shopping at the last minute. Christmas Eve is the worse day of the year to shop. But out you go again, battling the throngs to find fresh prawns or a last-minute gift for which you end up paying far too much.

Of course this is make-or-break-time for retailers. Last year, Australians broke the record, spending $45 billion in the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas. And this year, with our current glass-half-full attitude, it’s bound to be a bumper year. If we were really feeling generous this Christmas, we’d buy clothes and shoes for our friends and loved ones … they’re the sectors that were pretty soft last year.

The whole thought of going Christmas shopping fills me with dread. One year I did it all online and half the gifts didn’t arrive in time, so I had to rush out and buy substitutes at the last minute.

This year, I’ve bought a couple of small gifts online but there’s several trips to various shopping centres looming and they’re not outings I’m looking forward to.

Sometimes I wish I could just leave town and forget all about it. And run the risk of being labelled a Grinch.

Tis the Season when we’re all supposed to be feeling jolly and happy and full of Christmas cheer and wishing goodwill to all men, women and children. While we get short-tempered in the traffic and max out our credit cards.

I think we should try to embody the Christmas spirit all through the year. Be friendly and kind and do things for other people without expecting anything in return. Sing songs and decorate houses. Spend time with small children. Watch wonderful old movies on TV. Buy random gifts for people we care about.

And next year, come Grand Final Day, I’m going to do all my Christmas shopping.



Published: Friday, November 20, 2015

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