IS IT even December if you haven’t started decorating something, deep cleaning, moving furniture and writing lists upon lists of things to be done before Santa arrives?

I often wonder why the grubby wall or the “cupboard of doom” doesn’t seem to really bother me that much until the festive season begins.

All of a sudden, I am plotting a major revamp and cleaning spree that ideally would take a solid month for a few people to complete, but here I am again with my hands covered in paint, and my back killing me because the expectation to have everything perfect for Christmas Day is so very real. Speaking to others, I have gathered, it’s a tradition in many families – or maybe not so much an intentional tradition, but one that is based on societal pressure and guilt to provide the ultimate special day.

December is the only month I will look at my crockery with shame and personal judgement. Like, really, is it that bad to have a chipped plate, and for people to have mismatched bowls for Christmas dinner? The ever-old capitalist pressure to spend spend spend, the gifts for him, gifts for her, that spill out of every website can’t be ignored. The shopping list seems to be never-ending.

If we listened to every advert, we would all need to be buying a new dining table – never mind the dinner set to put on it, and don’t forget to decorate that spare bedroom in case you have an overnight visitor. No spare room? Don’t worry, the shops have now filled up with blow-up mattresses and sofa beds. And perhaps a new kitchen and bathroom while we are at it, because goodness forbid, a guest would judge our mouldy bath sealant and wonky toilet seat.

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Perhaps the poignant heart-warming adverts from retailers like John Lewis are what brings a little bit of meaning back – but ultimately, they are a retailer that wants to get the most of your buying power;, it’s their business after all, and Christmas is big business. When our memories are triggered by smells, music, visuals and tastes, it’s no wonder we are taken in by the sensory overwhelm, and we act on it so instinctively. Is this Pavlov’s Dogs: The Christmas Edition?

Myself and my family are admittedly Christmas Pavlov’s dogs – and we go big. It’s the one time every year I see even my most cynical family members (you know who you are) get into the spirit of it all. We are crafters and movie watchers, we tease each other about gifts and plan the dinner ensuring everyone’s favourite food is included.

I get moaned at for including prawn cocktail, but I am a child of the 1970s and it’s mostly there because it reminds me of my mum’s Christmas dinner menu.

The memories of loved ones no longer here, like my mum, are certainly enhanced by everything around us. Christmases past are cast up, the change over the years makes time and the passing of it seem so tangible. The memories of sitting at the table eating a prawn cocktail; listening to Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas; the smell of tinsel, and admiring my new pink watch – they never seem as vibrant as at this time of year.

What to be mindful of is that the sensory overload can just be too much for some to bear. If my memory is so vivid, I dare to think how those with challenging, harmful upbringings or abusive marriages must feel. The retrospect will be all-consuming.

It’s such a powerful time of year, for good, for bad and for the ugly sides of society. Mental health charities are often overwhelmed at this time of year. It could be the memories, the debt, or the pressure that was a tipping point that means for a lot of folks it’s not a burden they are able to carry alone.

The Christmas message of peace and goodwill is not only needed now more than ever – it’s essential to help many survive. I have seen first-hand the incredible generosity of those across Scotland supporting each other to try to ease the burden so many face. To see the action in my constituency during the last few weeks of my Christmas toy and food appeal has been heart-warming.

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Businesses and individuals have been so supportive to try to ensure no child wakes up on Christmas morning without a gift from Santa, and that there will be a breakfast waiting for them too.

To see the inherent goodness of people serving one another is a sight that I feel we need to see more of, and I mean that in the literal sense. There is so much of it going on, but do we really get to see it? The majority of those quietly getting on with it usually goes unseen.

Maybe that’s what we need more of: to highlight the good, to help support those who support others. Less of buying into the marketing of the perfect day, when maybe the perfect day is waking up feeling we did our best so another could wake up to a day they can just get through, perhaps even enjoy. When I stop and look at the goodwill of others, I am reminded that the retail circus is a distraction, that gifts are sometimes not things we can see.

Amid the hustle and bustle, the stress and the panic, I hope you all can take time to enjoy the run-up to Christmas, and see that peace and goodwill are given and received.

If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to your political representatives who can signpost you ( Other organisations which can help include Samaritans ( or 116 123) and Scotland’s Domestic Abuse And Forced Marriage Helpline ( or 0800 027 1234).