Now I'm not sure if it's common knowledge, but it tends to be a bit warmer at Christmas time in mid Florida than in West Yorkshire but after only 5 years of experiencing a warm Christmas, it's not like the weather here is a shock to me.
Last year I remember sitting by the swimming pool in sunny Buttonwood Bay and thinking that it was very pleasant but I kinda yearned for a classic white Christmas again. What the hell was I thinking about !?!
Leaving aside the weather for once, in many ways I could still be in America. I still watch all my favourite US tv shows, in some cases a day before they are shown over there. I still talk with US friends (just via the internet now) and I still shop using Amazon (just the UK version now). Speaking of shopping, we seem to have taken Black Friday to our retail hearts and, as our economy desperately needs an injection of consumer cash, we've turned it into a week long event. Yes Black Friday Week is the new hashtag to look for on Twitter and with online shopping far outstripping actually going to the shops, who cares if it's cold and wet and generally miserable outside. Let your fingers do the walking.
Yes Amazon is the new Santa's Grotto and their sleighs pull up right outside your front door to deliver the goodies, sometimes all wrapped and ready to be handed over or placed under the tree. Of course buying more online means credit card shopping so we're on a slippery slope there again. If you thought your flexible friend made shopping easy in the days of QVC, then try Amazon's one click option. They already have your credit card and delivery/billing address details so once you've decided on a gift, you just take the one click option and voila, the deal is done. Sit back and await delivery or even have it delivered to the recipient !
How easy is THAT to get you deeper into debt when the time to pay comes round ! Remember when we all HAD to go out into the freezing cold and tramp up and down the streets, getting weighed down with presents like Crackerjack contestants.
Are things better now that we can find the best deals online and with a few clicks, get all our presents bought and delivered without going out of our warm houses ? Were we more careful with our money and more thoughtful with our choice of presents when actually handing cash over a counter ?
The famous UK money expert Martin Lewis blogged the other day that in recent opinion polls, a majority of people felt the stress and expense of buying presents for adult family and close friends had been ruining their enjoyment of Christmas for decades. He proposed that people should only buy presents for kids and that adults should forego this ritual. He expected to get 'bah humbug' comments but far from it, his ideas were supported by the majority and not only for financial reasons.
If you receive a present or even suspect you might get one, the pressure is on to reciprocate. Then you can get grumpy if you clearly spent more on YOUR present than the one you received. You also might get what you regard as a crap present. Worst of all, you also end up spending money you can't afford and pay for it all year.
How often do we hear people say "oh I'll be glad when it's all over." Now think how wonderful it would be if they only had to get a few presents for the kids they have or are close to and then plan on spending quality time and meet up with their family and adult friends over Christmas. Ok so I realise that more money might then be spent on food and booze this way but hey, less stress at least !
Maybe this will happen, maybe not. Initially the stores wouldn't like it but maybe, as a stopgap, adults could buy the occasional present for their friends during the year ! Spread the happiness around all year long and all that. Small thoughtful presents, maybe some home made ones, that show you care. Don't just store it all up for birthdays and Christmas.
And whether in sunny, warm Florida or cold, wet West Yorkshire, such time given by family and friends is much more precious than any present from Amazon.
When it comes to a choice between a few clicks at Christmas or hugs all year round, I know which mean more to me.