For 10 years, we owned a small successful hotel in Ireland. Money wasn't scarce and so, each Christmas, we took a lot of time picking gifts for our only son. He wasn't spoiled! He didn't receive stuff willy nilly all year. But at Christmas, we always bought him something pretty spectacular.
A couple of years ago, when the latest recession hit, I asked my then 21 year old son, who was home for Christmas, what his favourite Christmas gifts were when he was a child. He thought for just a moment and said" I don't really remember individual presents. But I'll always remember Uncle Conor and family coming to stay (my son's cousins were more like brothers to him). And especially the Christmas when I was about 6 or 7 and Dad kept warning that Santa better not land the reindeer on the new hotel roof and damage it! Dad "grumbled" that the reindeer were more trouble than they were worth, that they better not poop on the hotel driveway either."
I suddenly recalled that holiday! My goofy husband waited until the boys were in bed on a snowy Christmas Eve, went out to a friend's rural farm with horses. He picked up a large bucket of frozen horse droppings and scattered them on the driveway where they could be clearly seen on the snow. The next morning when the boys got up and raced to the tree, they saw that the cookies and milk and carrots left out for Santa were duly "nibbled".
When my grown up son recounted that as one of his favourite memories, it was a very key moment for me and parents should take note. It's not how much children get at Christmas, it's the magic you create!
By siobhan o'brien from Fermanagh, Ireland
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My thoughts run back through the years to Christmas past, when I was small and Grandma was still around. It was always Christmas at her house, a ramshackle farmhouse with mice in the walls that she used to tell me were fairies working for Santa.
This year is pretty tight for us but I was reminded today of an almost devastating Christmas in 1953 when I was 13. All I wanted was a dictionary and a pair of hose.
How to bring holiday magic into your house without breaking the bank.