It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas....

We have had the Christmas parade, the town Christmas tree is looking magnificent in Prospero Place, and Father Christmas has been holding court, listening to Christmas lists and posing for plenty of photos in Santa's Cave on Broadway. So love it or loathe, it, there is no denying the holiday season is well and truly here.

I'm firmly in the love it camp myself. From cheesy Christmas tunes playing (I use the iHeartRadio app on my phone to create my own Christmas themed playlists) to watching Nativity plays, from late nights wrapping presents to Christmas drinks with friends, all of it puts a smile on my face.

As I write cards to colleagues, friends and family however, I am aware Christmas isn't for everyone. For some, it is a sad or hard time of the year, and my thoughts are with all of those of you for whom this rings true.

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Some people face a first Christmas without a loved one, while others struggle to put food on the table let alone spend on presents and extras. For some it is a time of loneliness, with no family nearby, and for others it is just another work day, as our doctors, nurses, emergency services, rubbish collectors, service station staff, hospitality and retail staff, clergy, helpline operators and others all keep our towns and communities running well and our people safe and sound.

Thank you to all of you who give your time, at Christmas or throughout the year, to make our community as great as it is. To those of you who have lost a loved one this year, our sympathies are with you. To those of you who are struggling with the extra pressures of Christmas, please know our community cares, and reach out to one of the many great charities or groups around and let them know you need a listening ear or a helping hand.

As Alyssa and I work on this final edition of the Stratford Press for 2019, we have picked just a few highlights from each month for this special lookback edition.

For every great story we have included there are several we had to leave out, so we apologise if your personal highlight isn't featured in these pages. With so many great stories, wonderful people and awesome charities and groups in our town, we have really been spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting five for each month.

Thank you to all our advertisers for your support this year. Without our advertisers, we would have no paper to print your news in, so when you do need that last minute gift for great-aunt Mavis, make sure you shop local and support those who support us.

Thank you also to all our readers for your support too. We love the letters and feedback we receive and Alyssa and I both enjoy meeting you all.

We hope you enjoy this Christmas edition of your local paper and look forward to bringing you plenty more great news from your town next year.

Our first edition in 2020 will be in mailboxes from January 8, with our office closed for the Christmas break between December 19 and January 6. Follow us on Facebook and keep an eye on our website in the meantime, as we will still be keeping you up to date online.

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