In a road not far from us there appears to be a neighbourly competition for the most gaudy Christmas lights and decoration – life size Father Christmases in sleds across roofs, massive flashing snowflakes on gates and windows, moving illuminated reindeers in gardens and inflatable everything.No expense spared. Most houses also have a very large sign that says Santa Stop Here.

Children in this neighbourhood clearly have expectations of presents – lots of them. There appears to be no shortage of wealth so they will probably get everything they ask for – and more. I am sure that parents believe they are giving their children a wonderful childhood, so why do I feel uncomfortable about this?

According to teachers many such children are developing a sense of entitlement – what they want they get. It does not occur to them to have to wait, sometimes go without or work hard over time in order to reach a goal. What matters most is ‘me and now’.

It gives the impression that love is expressed by the number and expense of presents. I am reminded of the ghastly Dudley in Harry Potter. The pressure on many families at this time of year is immense – every time they watch TV or open a magazine they get the message that if they don’t give their children lots of things to unwrap they are somehow not good parents. What does this mean for the less well off – especially at this time of economic hardship? What people actually become are good consumers – sometimes at the expense of more important and less tangible things in life.

And all this does nothing to develop a sense of fairness and equality in the next generation – the hallmarks of wellbeing in society. In order to maintain their sense of rightful privilege some people demonise the poor – as feckless, wasters and losers. Why should they have one present less so that others who are without can have a little more? Are you beginning to get the bigger picture here?!

Our family stopped giving Christmas presents to each other many years ago. Has it made any difference? Yes, an enormous one! Everyone now enjoys the festive season much more. We still meet, eat and play together but we do not have the stress of trying to think what to give people who already have most things, do not spend valuable time traipsing endlessly around shops or surfing the net – and what we save goes to charities that give people what they really need. We are not self-righteous about this – but it does feel good!  Goats are great!

If you want to acknowledge the giving season by doing the same… try one of these links (loaning money to small businesses in third world countries)