Katie Bulmer-Cooke: Why you should consider shopping in Sunderland this Christmas
Now that the illuminations have been and gone, Hadrian's Tipi is up and the Christmas light switch-on has taken place in Keel Square, we can officially say that the Christmas countdown is on.
Now come the parties, school plays, the Secret Santa at work, and, of course, the Christmas shopping.
Over the years, especially since I’ve been a mam, it seems that Christmas has just got bigger and bigger, and there is an ever-increasing pressure on parents to buy their children a huge amount of gifts.
This is demonstrated by the number of people who share their photographs on social media of sofas, covered from top to bottom and side to side with gifts on Christmas Eve - just one of the reasons I don’t have a personal Facebook account any more!
Christmas is such an expensive time anyway, but this added pressure to go above and beyond when it comes to volume of gifts will no doubt have many people reaching for the credit card and ticking on items rather than cutting their cloth to suit.
Now I’m no Scrooge, but I think it’s important that kids learn the value of gifts, that Santa doesn’t have an endless supply of cash or a money tree in his back garden, and that Christmas isn’t just all about presents.
My little girl understands that me and my husband have to give Santa some money to help buy the things on her Christmas wish list.
We do this because, in a world where they already expect so much, we feel it’s important to teach them the value of things.
It’s also important not to still be paying off Christmas 2018 in the run-up to Christmas 2019!
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When it does come to making festive purchases, it’s so easy to head straight to online retailers and spend your Christmas pounds there.
After all, it is quick and very convenient, and as an online retailer myself, of course I’m always going to encourage it.
But it’s also important not to forget the brilliant businesses that are right on our doorstep.
Whether it’s a local independent retailer that sells beautiful gifts, a hair and beauty salon that offers a festive product range or a restaurant where you can get a voucher, it will always be high priority that we spend a portion of our festive funds in the city in order to support our local economy.
So, as you start planning your festivities and choosing gifts for your loved ones, please consider shopping in Sunderland first and also think of those who don’t look forward to Christmas, maybe because they are lonely, have fallen on hard times or have lost a loved one.
We can all do our bit to help, whether it be inviting a neighbour round for Christmas dinner or donating to a festive toy appeal.
It’s very easy to get sucked into the Christmas hype, but there is so much more to this time of year than filling a sofa with gifts.