Leading Newcastle’s Top Divorce and Family Law Specialist, Joanne Major comments in the Tyne Valley Express

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Every year, this question vehemently divides the nation’s shoppers: those who salt away gifts from August onwards and have everything wrapped by mid-October are a source of continual irritation to those who – for whatever reason – don’t even begin to muse on the gift conundrum until the advent calendars are up and Father Christmas is breathing down their neck.

Am I adding fuel to the yule fire by raising this before the festive month, I ask myself? Every year, we seem genuinely surprised and shocked to find that Christmas decorations have once more appeared on shop shelves before October is out. We berate the retail sector and advertisers for their overtly cynical manipulation of the festive season and release our inner Scrooge to voice our objection at being herded into this extended period of material gluttony against our will.

And yet, amongst this apparent orgy of over-commercialised consumerism, there is still an opportunity to truly enjoy the process of selecting and giving well-thought out gifts matched to the recipient.

There is no doubt that it can be difficult to find either the time and financial resources to accumulate the necessary selection of gifts both for and on behalf of family members, particularly if  juggling work commitments and a family. Perhaps, some of that could be alleviated if we just took a little time to breathe and gather ourselves before commencing the festive onslaught. The choice of available goods and purchasing options are bewildering, so perhaps the answer lies in adopting a different approach to the selection and purchase of gifts.

One year, desperately short of time and with a sizeable list of people for whom I needed to buy gifts, I opted to arrive at a department store as it opened. I took the lift to the top floor and worked my way down. To my surprise, I succeeded in buying appropriate gifts for every person on my list without straying from that one store, and what’s more, I was loading them into the boot of my car to come home by the time the store was filling with stressed, frantic shoppers.

By contrast, I now have more of an eye for supporting fellow local businesses. The commercialism of the retail giants which we detest so vociferously is countered somewhat by a growing trend for Christmas fayres and markets around the region. Many of the retailers at these events are local producers with beautifully crafted goods not available on the high street.  The organisers work hard to create a truly festive environment in which to shop and there is opportunity to discuss products with the people who have actually created them.

I may only have time to visit one fayre in the run up to Christmas, and it may not be feasible to aspire to purchase all my presents that way, but if we all just try to support our local producers, that in itself is a gift – to others, to ourselves and to our beautiful region. Spread a little joy as well as a little wealth!