Pass the Parcel. Pros & cons of ‘regifting’.

New Year.  Traditionally, of course, a time for resolutions.  An opportunity to reshape our waistlines, recycle trees, cards and wrapping paper … and regift those unwanted presents.  

Come on now.  Don’t try to pretend you’ve never done it.  We’ve all let life overtake us and been caught unprepared for a friend’s birthday haven’t we?  When a visit to the shops is not an option time will allow, a visit to the cupboard of miscellanea where you keep all those presents from people that you will never use, is what comes to your rescue. Otherwise, the items would go to waste and you’d also look like a bad friend who forgot a birthday.  So, surely everyone’s a winner?

Or maybe you’re certain you have the perfect gift for your friend in that cupboard.  In fact, they’ve even mentioned it to you that it’s on their wish list.  The only reason you don’t use it, is because you received two from different well-wishers.   Then it’s definitely ok to ‘pass the parcel’ so to speak.  Am I right?

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‘Tis the season to be merry. What makes your Christmas a tradition?

You can also read my blog in Cardiff Life magazine monthly.

With my October birthday, Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ night all duly celebrated, it’s finally time to look forward to Christmas.  I have made it my tradition to wait until December 1st before I allow myself to begin seasonal preparations.  This is no doubt why, each year, I am consumed by a panic of online ordering and lost in a clutter of wrapping, bows and gift cards whilst clambering on various furniture pinning mistletoe and balancing angels.

But, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without our traditions to uphold and too little time to organise them all would it?  And talking to my husband made me realise that the magical thing about everyone’s festivities is that we all celebrate with slightly different quirks.  Those unique customs that merge and evolve with every marriage created and each new family formed.

Merry Christmas! Our REAL tree.

Merry Christmas! Our REAL tree.

Here’s my top ten from growing up in the Benfield household – which I hope will have an influence on many a Byrne Christmas to come.  Some you will no doubt share, some you probably won’t! But that’s what makes them special:

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Pen to paper: letter writing in a digital age

You can also read my columns in Cardiff Life Magazine every month. 

Each year when the kids return to school in the autumn sporting the latest funky fashions in pencil cases, folders, pads and pens I am a just a little envious of their new stash.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to find when browsing Cardiff Life mag last month, a fab selection of fashionable stationary for us adults too (and slightly more sophisticated than Bob the Builder of course!).  A colourful double page spread dedicated to pretty post-its and pens, neon satchels and even a good old paperweight.  I was reassured to see that even in a digital revolution, there is still some care for the practice of putting pen to paper.

After all, it’s that time of year when we all start to consider whether or not to buy multiple boxes of generic seasonal greetings cards, spend several hours writing each one and then a little longer sticking down the envelopes.  Oh, and then there’s an evening or two leafing through the address book only to discover half of those we have in there, are out of date.  And so being forced to revert back to texts and emails just to make sure the festive lengths we’ve gone to aren’t just returned to sender.

For all the bother it might involve, I am actually a big fan of the annual Christmas card ‘faff’.  It’s precisely the fact that someone has gone to that bother that makes it special when it lands on your mat.   I’m an even bigger fan of people actually bothering to write something inside that amounts to more than just a sign-off.  And thank goodness I’m not alone.  A quick unscientific poll (via Twitter) suggests a good percentage of you are still slaves to the Christmas card effort and many of you go so far as to include a note as well – or perhaps my followers have all just bought shares in Royal Mail?

Either way, despite these Christmas exertions, the hand-written traditional letter is becoming a dying art at most other times of the year.  It’s a far cry from when I was a child and the international pen pal network thrived.  Whilst my bundles of mail may now be stuffed gathering dust in a drawer at my mum’s, I still find it comforting to know they’re there and form part of the record of my childhood.

Me & hubby: accustomed to long-distance love in a digital age.

Me & hubby: accustomed to long-distance love in a digital age.

These days, even when I found myself in a long distance marriage when my husband moved to play his club rugby in France, it was Skype, Watts App, text and email that became our communications of convenience, rather than cards and letters.  In fact, the last time I can remember writing him a letter was when I sneaked 3 envelopes in his kit as he left for the World Cup in New Zealand.  They came with instructions to read them as the tour progressed with the hope I might provide a little love, motivation and inspiration with my carefully scribed words.  Well, he found them at the airport and opened all of them on the flight out!  So, it’s fair to say perhaps not everyone shares my literary sentimentality…

Yours Sincerely

Mrs Andrea Byrne

Encs. Christmas greetings in advance!

 

 

 

 

Appreciating Autumn: why the Christmas countdown needs to wait its turn ….

Read my columns each month in Cardiff Life Magazine

Autumn is my favourite season.  It is the beautiful season.  It is the season blessed with the most indulgent of colour schemes.  However, it is also fated as the season before the ‘jolly’ one and our anticipation for snow, sleighs and snuggling by the fire in motif Christmas jumpers and big woolly socks more often than not succeeds in upstaging the months that precede it. 

The writer George Eliot had the right idea when she declared autumn ‘delicious’ and said ‘my very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.’  Boy, they knew how to express themselves in the nineteenth century, didn’t they?

What has brought on this sudden seasonal sales pitch, I hear you ask?  No, I have not been visited by Vertumnus (he’s the Roman God of seasons in case you hadn’t googled mythology recently).  Rather, I’ve been plagued by many a social media comment ushering in Santa long before – in my opinion – his scripted entry.  One of my friends thought it necessary to mark the 100-day countdown and another to post their first purchase of mince pies (you know exactly who you are!).  The latter not a difficult feat of course, when there are already several festive aisles creeping into most of our supermarkets/garden centres/department stores…

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