A thought for those in need

By Martine Rolls

The silly season is upon us and it's clear to see that people are feeling increasingly Christmassy.

The trees and decorations are up, Secret Santa will be a bit of fun at work and the impressive Bay of Plenty Times light trail always works a treat.

The Christmas music in the shops is a bit cheesy but it makes us feel rather cheerful all the same.

I haven't seen many people stressing out about it yet, but I guess the aggravation over last-minute shopping, Christmas cooking and table settings is not due until next week.

This certainly is a fun time of the year, no matter the rain, but it is so easy to go overboard as budgets are readily blown on presents, fancy food and over the top trimmings.

I never celebrate Christmas too extravagantly but I do end up spending a lot more than intended every year.

At the time of writing, I have already exceeded my budget, partly because the kids and I have already celebrated Sinterklaas, the Dutch Santa, earlier this month.

How lucky for those who have the means to make it as grand as ever, as the harsh reality is that plenty of families will be celebrating Christmas on a much tighter budget this year.

I guess it's an appropriate time to reframe expectations when so many people are up to their necks in debt already.

To me, Christmas has always been a time for giving. It has never been about what presents I would receive.

Maybe being a teenager in the eighties when Band Aid sang their Do they know it's Christmas song has something to do with that.

The images of starving children really made me think and that hasn't changed over the years.

If you want to help out people who are less fortunate, join one of the many initiatives that are organised in the Bay to help make this time of the year a little easier for those in need.

The Bay of Plenty Times' Christmas Appeal 2011 for the Tauranga Foodbank is a great example.

We are delighted with how successful our appeal is becoming and we would like to express a big thanks to all the people, schools, businesses and organisations that have contributed since the launch in November.

Every can and every dollar makes a difference and the appeal will continue right up to Christmas.

In our story on the front page of Monday's Bay of Plenty Times, you could read that a lot of families are not in a position to have much of a celebration this year.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

For many, there is no money to put presents under the tree and an increasing amount of families have to rely on others for food.

After we published the story online, we received some interesting and heart-warming comments and I, too, believe that a great Christmas can be celebrated on a budget, even with no money to spare at all.

"Money shouldn't dictate a good Christmas. If money is tight (or even non-existent) spend it as a family at the beach or have a picnic on the back lawn with just the basics.

"If it's fine, let the kids sleep outside under the stars. Kids don't need much to make them happy", said Socretes from Mount Maunganui on our website.

This was further defined by Clementine Cuppen who commented on our Facebook page: "Christmas is a special time and we love to give and share, but in our family it isn't about gifts, big meals or commercial pressures.

"We avoid them as well as we can. It is about love and being thankful for each other and for the very reason there is a Christmas celebration to begin with: the birth of Jesus.

"We keep it simple, within an almost non-existent budget and have a precious time together, making memories for the future.

"If you stop stressing about money, or the lack of it, and get your head around making it happen simply and happily, it is the best time of the year."

It's only 11 more sleeps until Christmas and I wish everybody an amazing time, whatever you plan to do.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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