Whenever people would tell me they weren't bothering with Christmas, I'd always remonstrate with them. But it's such a wonderful celebration, I'd say. A time for sharing and thinking of others and allowing others to think of you.

Even if you aren't particularly religious, there's something lovely about the story of Christmas and the birth of a baby in a stable.

Yes, Christmas has become a little too commercial but it's also a time when people's generosity comes to the fore.

The Auckland City Mission, for instance, gets a third of the funding it needs to operate for a year in the month of December.


Donors don't want people to do without at Christmas and donations, food and presents pour into the mission - although the need is always so very much greater than the donations.

On that, there's still time to spread a little bit of Christmas spirit if you are willing and able. ASB branches have boxes, you can donate online, and supermarkets are still collecting gifts of food.

I've always loved Christmas and I've passed that love of the festival on to my daughter.

She's a self-proclaimed festive freak, and the rituals involved in the celebration are very important to her, from choosing the tree, to the careful selection of presents for those she cares about, the attendance of Midnight Mass, preferably with her grandmother, and the customary Christmas Day lunch, where family, friends and Christmas orphans gather round our table for hours on end. Christmas at our house has always been full of love, laughter, noise and tears.

This year, however, my little festive freak and her husband are in London. And so this will be quite a different Christmas.

To a certain extent, I've become one of those people who aren't really bothering. I wasn't even going to get a tree - there didn't seem to be much point, given that it's just the husband and I at home.

I capitulated in the end - I love the smell of a real pine tree and I didn't want to appear to be anti-Christmas - but it's a very little tree.

The smallest we've ever had. Strip off its branches and you could use it as a toothpick.

But it exudes the same aroma as the tallest trees and, at night, with the lights draped around it, it twinkles away merrily enough and once we'd put it up last Sunday, it certainly made me feel a little more Christmassy.

And there are advantages to having a quiet Christmas, or at least, a Christmas where I'm not in charge. I may well be able to get through this Christmas without once visiting a mall and that is a wonderful thought.

I haven't had to agonise over what to get the favourite people in my life, given that I've sent Kate and her husband money to get each other something nice from me (I will never trust New Zealand Post again) and that our extended family are only exchanging token gifts.

I don't have to plan a huge Christmas feast for 20-odd hungry mouths - we'll be joining my daughter's dad and his family in Christchurch for Christmas Day.

We've all had Christmas together a number of times and while it may be a little unorthodox, it works for us.

I'll be spending time in the kitchen, of course, but only as a foot soldier, not a general in the great Christmas lunch campaign, and there's a certain amount of relief in that.

My daughter's two gorgeous friends are moving into our house for Christmas to care for the arthritic, ancient old border collie, so I don't have to worry about him while we're away.

So all in all, this would have to be one of the most stress-free Christmases I've had in a long time.

However you're spending Christmas this year - no frills or the full turkey/steamed pud monty - I hope you have a lovely day with family and friends.